The 60-second story
Caglar Soyuncu’s rise has been quite remarkable. Just a couple of years ago he was still playing for Altinordu in Turkey’s second division, but now he’s being linked to Arsenal and Manchester United – and some reports even suggest that a move to the Gunners is imminent.
The 22-year-old is already respected in the Bundesliga, where his performances for Freiburg have caught the attention of pundits and fans alike.
The modest club from the Black Forest were relegation-threatened last season, but Soyuncu has benefited from stability and gradually improved his game under the guidance of their brilliant coach Christian Streich.
Date of birth: May 23, 1996
Place of birth: Izmir, Turkey
Clubs: Altinordu, Freiburg
Country: Turkey (15 caps, 0 goals)
Why you need to know him
Back in 1996, Turkish fans were astonished when national team coach Fatih Terim took anonymous defender Vedat Inceefe to the European Championship as a second division player with Karabukspor – and even put him in the starting lineup for every group stage game.
The unexpected exposure helped Inceefe get a transfer to Galatasaray that summer and make a decent career for himself, even though he never played for Turkey again. He knows better than anyone that football is a meritocracy, though, and Soyuncu is fortunate that Inceefe is the U19 national team coach nowadays.
It’s only logical that Inceefe wasn't afraid to trust Soyuncu for his squad in 2014, even though the youngster played at an amateur level back then. Performances were promising, though, and by 2015/16 Caglar was irreplaceable at the heart of Altinordu’s defence.
Such was his progress that he followed Inceefe's footsteps and made his debut for Turkey as a second division player. Amusingly, the coach was Fatih Terim again, and he included the centre-back in his provisional squad for Euro 2016. However, Soyuncu was disappointed to be left out when the final squad was announced.
Scouts were alerted anyway, because Soyuncu felt like a incredible bargain. Sevilla – still under brilliant sporting director Monchi at the time – were naturally keen to sign the rising star. The youngster chose a smaller club in Freiburg, though, deciding that the Bundesliga was the right league for him, at a club he would have a decent chance of playing for weekly.
It proved to be the correct decision. Freiburg fans were a little surprised that the club spent €2.5 million on an unknown player – a significant sum by Freiburg standards – but injuries forced Streich to play Soyuncu immediately at the beginning of 2016/17.
The Turkish prodigy experienced language problems, and it took him time to get accustomed to a much faster pace and more professional attitude, but the raw talent was there to see despite numerous mistakes. By the end of the season, he was considered one of the best young players in Germany, and rumours were rife that top Premier League clubs were circulating. Arsenal were closely linked, but Leicester appear keenest to land him this summer amid rumours of Manchester United interest in Harry Maguire.
Soyuncu has become a certain starter for the national team under Mircea Lucescu, and seems destined to become one of the leaders of a new generation.
Soyuncu, a ball-playing centre-back who’s always willing to start attacks from behind, combines combative character and physical presence with elegance, prompting comparisons with Mats Hummels. The Turk possesses a brilliant range of passing, and is able to send precise long balls with both feet.
Originally right-footed, Soyuncu worked countless hours on his left, and now it's quite difficult to spot the difference – especially because he mostly plays as a left-sided stopper. At 6ft 2in he isn’t bad in the air either, although his positioning isn't always perfect.
The young stopper is dedicated, hard-working, humble and always willing to learn. Having come from a modest background he hasn't changed his attitude after becoming more famous, as his choice of Freiburg clearly shows. His role models are also indicative – apart from Hummels, the stopper admires Carles Puyol and Diego Lugano. Whoever signs Soyuncu would get an excellent professional with outstanding potential.
Soyuncu is not the finished article by any means. His positioning is improving, but he still has a lot to learn and he’s caught in the wrong spot quite often.
His tendency to act as a playmaker from deep has also led to some careless decisions – although some would call them bold. Scoring isn’t his strongest asset either yet, as just one goal in two Bundesliga seasons shows.
The Turk is still very inexperienced at the top level, and mistakes would be unavoidable. He certainly shouldn't sign for a manager who doesn't trust young players, because such a move could ruin his career.
“The way he got accustomed to a completely different culture had been amazing. It shows very good character,” said Freiburg captain Nils Petersen.
Did you know...
Soyuncu is a very close friend of Roma starlet Cengiz Under. The pair were room-mates when playing for Bucaspor and Altinordu, and the latter proved to be an outstanding academy as far as nurturing youngsters is concerned. If you’re a sporting director looking for promising talents, don't hesitate to visit Altinordu games.
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