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Ali Akman: The 'Turkish Aguero' that Man City missed out on

12:00 GMT 04/03/2021
Ali Akman NXGN
The teenage striker scored 10 goals in 18 league games for Bursaspor this season, and is now set for a move to the Bundesliga over the summer

Back in the summer of 2015, Manchester City paid a reported £2 million ($3.1m) to Bursaspor for 18-year-old forward Enes Unal in the belief that the teenager would become a star at the Etihad Stadium.

At the time the youngest goalscorer in Super Lig history, Unal had been a revelation at youth level in Turkey and seemed ready to light up one of Europe's top leagues.

Almost six years on, and though City made a tidy profit on Unal, having sold him to Villarreal for €13.7m (£12m/$15.5m) in 2017, it is clear the move didn't work out as planned, given he never made a first-team appearance for the Premier League outfit.

Given the number of young players that City acquire and dispose of each year, it should come as no surprise that they were not scarred by their experience with Unal, who is currently on loan at Getafe in La Liga.

Indeed, they recently returned to Bursa in a bid to secure the signing of the next potential superstar striker emerging from the Turkish outfit's academy: Ali Akman.

Unlike Unal, who relied heavily on his large frame to bully defenders at schoolboy level before struggling to adapt to the men's game, Akman has the speed of thought and quick feet required to bridge the gap as he develops physically.

That has been illustrated during his breakout campaign in 2020-21, with the teenager having netted 10 goals and provided three assists in 18 league games for the second division outfit.

Unfortunately for City, their pursuit of Akman has come to nought, with the 18-year-old having instead reached an agreement to join Bundesliga high-flyers Eintracht Frankfurt from the start of next season.

That is not to say the striker did not consider joining Pep Guardiola's side but Turkey centre-back Ozan Kabak, who joined Liverpool from Schalke in January, played a crucial part in his compatriot's decision to move to Germany.

"Manchester City was a very serious candidate. I had to make a choice because I had offers from Atalanta and Valencia, too," Akman, who was also linked with Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, told Goal in an exclusive interview following the announcement of his transfer to Eintracht.

"At one point, my mind went to Manchester City, but after careful thought, it was not that difficult to make a decision.

"I thought they would give me a better education in Germany. Germany is a must-go destination for young players. I met with Ozan Kabak, and he said, 'Don't even think about it. You will understand the difference better when you go to Germany.'

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"I think very good things are going to happen, I am not aware of everything right now, but I will understand better when I go. I think Germany is the right school for me."

If Akman is preparing himself for school, then his pre-education has been mightily impressive.

The nephew of former Besiktas and Galatasaray midfielder Ayhan Akman, the youngster has found the net on 145 occasions since joining Bursaspor's academy in 2015 – a remarkable tally which includes 54 goals for Turkey, for whom he has already been capped at Under-21 level.

Akman's form in Bursaspor's youth teams earned him a promotion to the senior squad ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, but despite scoring on his first start, he finished the campaign with just four goals in all competitions as he struggled with the increased tempo.

Bursaspor's transfer ban over the summer of 2020 meant that further competition for players could not be acquired, and Akman has taken advantage this term, showcasing both an eye for goal and ability to read the game that has seen him compared to Bayern Munich star Thomas Muller.

Akman himself, however, has been modelling his game on another forward who is as renowned for his link-up play as he is his ability to finish off chances.

"Frankly, I'm a real Roberto Firmino fan," he said. "I constantly watch his videos. He's really a player of another level. and I like him very much. I also watch Lautaro Martinez very closely.

"Apart from them, of course, Kun Aguero. When I scored a chipped finish against Adana Demirspor, it was described as an 'Aguero goal', and I liked that. My playing style is similar to Aguero."

Unfortunately for Akman, his final months at his boyhood club have ended on a disappointing note, with the team having first suspended him indefinitely, citing his signing of a four-year contract at Eintracht as "unethical", before cancelling his contract for good on Tuesday.

"I leave Bursaspor, which is the first step of my dreams, to achieve my aims," Akman wrote on his Instagram. "During my time here, I fought for Bursaspor until the last minute. My aim was to be worthy of Bursaspor. Now is the time to turn a new page."

Akman's importance to the club was perfectly illustrated when the Green Crocodiles failed to score in three of the first four games that he was left out for, and they now face an uphill struggle to earn promotion back to the Super Lig without their star striker.

For now, though, the teenager can only focus on his own future; a future that his uncle, Ayhan, told Goal could see Akman eventually playing "for one of Europe's top five clubs", if he can improve his physicality in the Bundesliga.

It is fair to say that the player himself certainly has similar aspirations, saying: "After completing my education in Germany, I would like to go to the Premier League, or top teams from La Liga in the long term. Teams like Liverpool, Real Madrid or Barcelona. Barca would be perfect.

"Of course, getting to those levels is not easy. But I have self-confidence. I am mentally strong and aware of the difficulties I will face. The most important point is to work more and more every day."

Akman certainly does not struggle with any doubts over his ability, and if his performances this season are anything to go by, then he is right not to.

'The Turkish Aguero' might not be heading to Manchester City, but Europe's best defences have been put on notice that he is on his way.