Turkish Blood – German Ambition

The growing immigrant population in Germany is one that has been the subject of many political discussions and debates in recent times, but even the most hardened cynic can see that the increasing population of ethnic Turks in Germany is yielding dividends on the football pitch for both countries.

So far the majority of players who are German born but who have Turkish parents or grandparents have chosen to represent Turkey, however there are a few that have chosen to represent the country of their birth.

Here we have a look at five of the players who have made this decision.

Mehmet Scholl

One of the Bundesliga’s most successful players, his decorated club career included eight Bundesliga titles, five DFB Pokals and a Champions League trophy. Born in Karlsruhe, West Germany to a Turkish father and a German mother, his parent’s separated in 1975. After this Scholl lived with his mother and took the family name of this mother’s new husband when they eventually married, this is thought to be one of the main reasons Scholl chose to play for Germany.

He stared his career at his hometown club before going on to become a Bayern Munich legend, making 464 appearances for the Bavarian giants between 1992 and 2007. Scholl was called up to the German U-21 team in 1991 where he scored three goals in five appearances.

The creative midfielder played a total of 36 times for Germany scoring eight times and  played a major part in the team winning EURO 96. In the final Scholl was substituted off for the then relatively unknown Oliver Bierhoff, Bierhoff of course went on to score twice including the winning Golden goal during extra time.

Scholl suffered with injuries throughout his career, leading to him retiring before the World Cup in 2002, he is often referred to as one of the most successful players to never have appeared in a World Cup.

Mesut Özil

The man Jogi Löw called “A gift to German football”, Mesut Özil is a third-generation Turkish-German. Born in Gelsenkirchen he signed his first professional contract with Rot-Weiss Essen, before moving to Schalke 04 where he was quickly labelled as the “next big thing”. A dispute over salary led to him turning down Schalke’s contract offer and instead he moved to Werder Bremen for a fee of around €5 million.

A €15million move to Real Madrid followed his impressive performances during the 2010 World Cup, and after three successful years Özil made the move to Arsenal for a fee believed to be in the region of €50 million. This made Özil the most expensive German footballer of all time.

Özil made his national team debut in February 2009 in a friendly against Norway and scored his first goal in only his third appearance against South Africa. He has gone on to score 18 goals in 70 appearances for die Nationalmannschaft. In an interview with Fourfourtwo magazine, Özil spoke about his choice to play for the Germany, “I am a third generation German, my father grew up here. Turkey will always be a special country for me but I started to play for Germany in the youth teams. I did not doubt my decision to play for Germany – ever”.

Serdar Tacsi

Current Spartak Moscow centre back Serdar Tasci was born in Esslingen in the West of Germany and has represented Germany at U-19, U-20, U-21 and senior level. Renowned for having a cool head and composure beyond his years Tasci stood out at an early age while playing for SC Altbach and Stuttgarter Kickers.  He eventually signed with VfB Stuttgart, graduating to VfB’s senior squad in August, 2006 and made 26 league appearances in their 2006/2007 title-winning season.  Tasci eventually appeared 181 times for tthe Swabians over the next seven years.

in October 2006 he chose to play for Germany despite interest from Turkey, Tasci explained his decision to continue his career with Germany, saying, “It was a decision for Germany and not against Turkey, but in the end it was German coach Joachim Löw who made the most effort for me to come”.

The call up for the German national team raised the question if Turkish officials had ever called him. Serdar told Hürriyet Daily News “My dream was playing for Turkey when I was a child, when I was at the age of the national team, Coach Fatih Terim called once and talked with my father. But it was too late. Since the youth team level, Germany was always interested. The decision was already made when Turkey called me, I could not change it. It would have been unethical.”

The towering defender was named in the squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but only managed to play 125 seconds in Germany’s 3rd place playoff game against Uruguay. The 28 year-old has made 14 appearances for the senior side but has not featured since 2010.

İlkay Gündoğan

İlkay Gündoğan, like Özil, is another player with who was born in Gelsenkirchen.  Both his parents are Turkish but he has competed for Germany at every level from U-18 and eventually received a call up to Löws senior side in August 2011.

In May 2012, he was selected by Löw for the German 23-man squad for EURO 2012 and was given the number two shirt. Germany reached the semi-finals, but Gündoğan did not play.

The midfielder really came to prominence at Dortmund under the guidance of Jurgan Klopp. Klopp described Gündoğan as an “intelligent and complete midfielder with numerous strengths”. He has previously been compared to Manchester’s Michael Carrick although Gündoğan offers “greater mobility and creativity” according to a football analysis website, whoscored.com.

On his decision to choose Germany over the homeland of his parents the 25-year-old BVB star told Ntvsport: “It was one of the most difficult decisions of my career. I grew up in Germany and went to school there. Also, I started to play football in Germany. Two days after Germany’s invite, Turkey invited me too. I decided to choose Germany and then they called me up to play against Belgium in my first match.”

Emre Can

The current Liverpool midfielder is the most recent player to be called up to the national team who is also eligible to play for Turkey. Can hails from Frankfurt and played for the youth teams of Eintracht Frankfurt before being signed by Bayern Munich as a 15 year old.

After playing 31 times for Bayern’s reserve team and four appearances with the first team, Can moved to Leverkusen for the 2013/2014 season on a four year deal.  Bayern only allowed the deal to go through once a buy back clause was inserted into the contract.

Can played just one season with Leverkusen, making 29 appearances and putting in a string of impressive displays. During the summer of 2014, interest from Liverpool resulted in the activation of his buyout clause of €12 million euros, with then-manager Brendan Rodgers of LFC comparing the midfielder to fellow German internationals Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

In early 2015 Can confirmed that he had been contacted by the Turkish FA, but the then U-21 star stated that he did not expect to switch.

“Of course the Turkish Federation has contacted me but I have played football all my life in Germany since U15 level, I like playing for Germany very much, and I want to make it into the national team”

Can did indeed make it into the national team, making his senior debut in September 2015, playing the full 90 mins in a 3-1 win against Poland which was played in his home town of Frankfurt.

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Part time football writer - From Bray, County Wicklow Ireland You can follow me on twitter - @jay_walker_83