PLAYER PROFILE: Who Is Liverpool Target Ozan Kabak?

Schalke defender Ozan Kabak looks set to join Liverpool on deadline day, almost two years after being linked with moves to Manchester United and Arsenal.

Liverpool target Ozan Kabak has been pictured heading to Schalke’s medical centre as the race to sign the centre-back heats up.

Ozan Kabak is on his way to Merseyside after Liverpool agreed a deal with Schalke for the centre-back. They’ll pay a loan fee of £1m (with potential £500,000 extra depending on appearances) with an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the season for £18m

Who is Ozan Kabak?
Kabak is a 20-year-old central defender who plays for German club Schalke and the Turkish national team.

The 6ft 1in centre-back has amassed over 4,000 league minutes at first-team level and has previously played for Galatasaray and Stuttgart before a move to Schalke last summer.

He has earned the nickname in some scouting circles of the “Turkish Wall” given his dominance in duels both on the ground and in the air.

With Jurgen Klopp’s men suffering a defensive injury crisis this season, it was only a matter of time before a new centre-back joined.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have been long-term absentees, while even stand-in Joel Matip has had his issues, with midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho called into the backline to help out.

Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have also lent a hand when needed but Kabak seems to be considered the long-term solution, and could give the club a replacement for Dejan Lovren who left last summer.

Arsenal and Manchester United were both keen on signing Kabak back in 2019, with Tottenham also maintaining a tentative interest in his services.

Bayern Munich were also following the progress of the stylish defender, but in the end he joined Schalke that summer six months after leaving Galatasaray in his homeland for Stuttgart.

Things haven’t gone well for Schalke, but despite their difficulties Kabak has remained a prospect top clubs have kept an eye on.

In matches the defender has played in, the Bundesliga outfit have conceded an average of 2.49 goals per game but they see the benefit of selling off their talented young star as they attempt to rebuild their squad.

Initially he will join Liverpool for a £2.5million loan fee with an option to buy him in the summer.

The Ankara native joined the Galatasaray youth academy at the age of just 11.

Kabak would go on to make 14 appearances for the Turkish giants, 13 of which came in the 2018/19 campaign prior to his mid-season switch to Stuttgart.

There he won the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Season award despite making just 15 league appearances.

His talent stood out immediately and within six months he had been signed by Schalke for £13.5m after his release clause was activated.

Across a season-and-a-half, Kabak has made 40 Bundesliga appearances in royal blue but the club have struggled badly.

In the 2019/20 campaign they failed to win any games after a mid-January victory over Borussia Monchengladbach.

They just about survived thanks to their good form at the start of that season, but the winless run continued into the current campaign.

Between January 18, 2020 and January 8, 2021, Schalke failed to win a single league game, before a triumph over Hoffenheim signalled the end of the disastrous run.

They are currently bottom of the Bundesliga table, however, and nine points from safety.

International experience?

Kabak won 50 youth caps for Turkey, and is now playing for the senior side.

He was called up to the main squad for the first time in March 2019 and became a regular in 2020, making six appearances, bringing his total to seven overall.

What is being said about him?

“Ozan is one of the best defensive talents in Europe,’ said former Schalke head coach David Wagner.

“Everyone knows which teams made every effort to try and sign him. He’s certainly one of the most talented defenders of his age in Europe.”

Stuttgart sporting director Thomas Hitzlsperger knew his talents mentally and technically.

“It’s incredible how worldy-wise he is for his age,” he said. “It’s astonishing. I see him every day and am amazed at how he mature he is. He wants to know everything; he wants to learn German right away and understand everything. That’s the kind of attitude we need. He’s already a role model, despite his age.”

Gonzalo Castro, a teammate at Stuttgart, added: “He’s very laid back, very calm and doesn’t let the club’s current situation [in a relegation fight] bother him. He’s definitely got the talent to play at a big club.”

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