FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan takes a closer look at how the mid-season arrival of Emre Can has come as a big boost to Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga title challenge.
Amidst all the hype – and understandably so – that has surrounded Erling Haaland following his astonishing start to life in the Bundesliga, it has been easy to overlook the fact that Borussia Dortmund actually brought in another reinforcement during the winter break.
But the impact that Emre Can has made was so immediately felt that, just two games into his loan deal from Juventus, Dortmund decided to seal his services on a permanent basis for a fee of €25 million.
Who is Emre Can?
There were never any doubts over his ability to contribute to a side challenging for top honours in Germany, especially given the pedigree he arrived at the Signal Iduna Park with.
After coming through the ranks at Bayern Munich, Can established himself as one of German football’s brightest midfield prospects with Bayer Leverkusen in the 2013/14 season and prompted Liverpool to bring him to the Premier League the following year.
Although he did not win any silverware in his time at Anfield, finishing as a runner-up in the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and League Cup, Can stood out with his all-action style of play and versatility, having filled a variety of roles in midfield and defence.
In the summer of 2018, Can then made the decision to move to Juventus on a free transfer and his first full season saw him add a Serie A and Supercoppa Italiana winner’s medal to the Bundesliga, Champions League, DFB-Pokal and DFL-Supercup titles he won with Bayern.
Nonetheless, having appeared just eight times in the league in the first half of this term – as well as being left out of Juve’s Champions League squad – Can found it impossible to refuse Dortmund when they came calling in January and it already looks like a match made in heaven.
On debut, the 26-year-old scored a stunner against former employers Leverkusen, picking up possession 30 yards out from goal and sending a sublime curler into the top corner, although it was not enough to prevent his new side from falling to a 4-3 defeat.
Since then, BVB have bounced back with 4-0 and 2-0 triumphs over Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen, with Can fitting in seamlessly alongside Axel Witsel in what is promising to be one of the most dynamic midfield partnerships in the entire league.
This man was everywhere ⚙️ pic.twitter.com/lUtrUUZHE4
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) February 23, 2020
With an average of 61.7 possessions from his first three matches, the Germany international is heavily involved in Dortmund’s build-up, but also has won 63.8 per cent of his duels while boasting a pass completion rate of 89.1 per cent.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how coach Lucien Favre’s sets up his team as the business end of the season approaches, with the likes of Julian Brandt and Thomas Delaney offering different qualities in the engine room.
For now, however, the Witsel-Can combination is working well as third-placed Dortmund look to put pressure on leaders Bayern and second-placed RB Leipzig.
And while the addition of Haaland has definitely grabbed the headlines, Can could just be equally vital to a BVB side looking to end an eight-year wait to win the Meisterschale.