Peace Cup Profile: Nihat Kahveci

The little forward is hopeful of making an impact in the forthcoming tournament in Andalucia...
It is somewhat ironic that Nihat’s heralded return to the Besiktas side will arrive with a return to Spain in the 2009 Peace Cup, pending his completion of compulsory military service in his native Turkey.

Having begun his career with the Turkish champions, the Istanbul-born forward caught the eye of then-Real Sociedad coach John Toshack, and in January 2002 he made the move to San Sebastian to commence a labour of love with La Liga.

In his first season with Txuri-urdin he formed a telepathic partnership with Serbian counterpart Darko Kovacevic and their goals were instrumental in Sociedad finishing second in the Primera Division behind Real Madrid.

The ‘Little and Large’ combination finished second and third in the Pichichi chart, with Nihat netting 23 league goals in his debut season, and during his tenure with Sociedad he managed a hugely impressive 55 strikes in 133 matches.

His record prompted Villarreal to swoop, landing the 29-year old on a Bosman in 2006, and after an injury-plagued campaign he responded with 18 goals in 2007/08 as Villarreal finished second to qualify automatically for the Champions League.

However, it is at international level where the pocket-sized Turk has rubber-stamped his excellence. A one-in-three record for his country in front of goal has been achieved during a halcyon era for the middle-eastern nation, including semi-final berths at both the World Cup of 2002 and Euro 2008.

Indeed Nihat’s majestic curling winner against the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals of the Euros could arguably be the most famous goal in Turkish football history, and had he not sustained a thigh injury that ruled him out of the semi-final, then his nation's heartbreaking late defeat at the hands of Germany could well have had a different outcome.

However, that very same injury blighted his entire campaign last season, when he failed to net a single La Liga goal and, despite having two years remaining on his deal at El Madrigal, he chose to return to his native Turkey to resurrect his career.

Sharp in the area, clever, and inventive, Nihat has bounced back from barren spells in front of goal before, and he will no doubt have a pivotal role to play as Besiktas look to retain their Turkish Superlig title.

However, should his military service overlap the Peace Cup kick-off, then Besiktas' top scorer from last season, Bobo, is likely to be the focal point of the double winners' attack.

The Brazilian netted 12 times last season and has attracted interest from Olympiakos, who rate his power in the air and his impressive record of 1 in 2 in the Turkish Superlig since his move from Corinthians in 2006.

Paul Macdonald,