Strengths: Gets fouled often
Weaknesses: Commits fouls often
A quick glance at the ‘style of play’ section of Emre Can’s WhoScored page tells you all you need to know about how he has fared since leaving Liverpool.
Best known at Anfield for his utterly preposterous overhead kick against Watford, 18 months at Juventus seem to have sapped the magic out of a player who was compared to Steven Gerrard at the peak of his powers.
The version of Emre Can who took to the pitch for Dortmund against Manchester City for Wednesday evening’s Champions League defeat wasn’t a bad player, but he was ineffectual. Through little fault of his own, the last few years have seen Can stumble from one manager to another, never able to deliver the sort of vibrant and energetic performances that saw him quickly win over the Liverpool faithful.
Back in the early part of his Anfield career, he was deployed as a defender by Brendan Rodgers, before Jurgen Klopp came in and singled him out for his technical ability.
Klopp’s first full season at Liverpool saw Can deliver the best football of his career so far, starring at the heart of a team who finished fourth and ended a long wait for Champions League football.
He arguably clinched it for them with one of the best goals the Premier League has ever seen, throwing himself at Lucas Leiva’s chipped pass and connecting with a technically outrageous overhead kicked.
Back then, he had that in his locker. He was physically imposing, but he was also a phenomenally gifted played capable of winning games by himself.
It looked as if he had it all, but he was soon distracted by a transfer saga that saw him walk away from Liverpool for free, just as the Reds began to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the world.
He made his final appearance for the club with a forgettable cameo in the Champions League final, as Real Madrid led 3-1 and cruised towards the trophy. Can’s future was already sealed; he’d signed a deal with Juventus, and flew out to Italy to join up with his new teammates.
That really couldn’t have gone much worse for him. While Max Allegri was patient as Can struggled to adjust to Serie A, Maurizio Sarri was not.
The incoming manager made it patently clear he had no space in his team for the Frankfurt-born midfielder. He was left out of the squad for their Champions League campaign, and started just twice under Sarri before he returned to the Bundesliga with Dortmund in January 2020.
And while he’s featured regularly since landing back in his paternal homeland, it’s a stretch to say things have gone smoothly.
Splitting his time between centre-back, right-back and a loosely-defined holding midfield role, he has been unable to carve out a clear role for himself under either Lucien Favre or Edin Terzic. When Marco Rose arrives in the summer, Can will have to start from scratch again, and prove himself to a fifth manager in just over three years.
There’s no denying Can’s ability, but his career has been waylaid by a lack of continuity. You could see that in his shakey, unsure performance against City, when Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne made his life a misery. He conceded the penalty that eventually sent City through, and looked like a player lacking any sort of confidence.
After three turbulent years, Can just needs to find some rhythm.
Whether that’s under Rose at Dortmund or elsewhere remains to be seen, but now 27, his undeniable talent is at real risk of going to waste if he doesn’t find it soon.