The Turkish Süper Lig certainly has no shortage of elite goalkeepers. Trabzonspor won the league last year largely because of the heroics of Turkish international Uğurcan Çakır, who allowed just 33 goals in 36 games. Galatasaray has long depended on Uruguay’s shot-stopper Fernando Muslera, who has played nearly 500 games for the club.
Rivals Besiktas have an exciting prospect in net, Ersin Destanoğlu. Turkish veteran Volkan Babacan plays for Basaksehir. Heck, Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson plays for Alanyaspor on loan from Arsenal. Remember him, Gunners fans?
However, there’s one club that stands clear of the others when it comes to goalkeepers: Fenerbahce.
This is despite the departure of Berke Özer, who left for free last summer. Their starter, Altay Bayındır, is also their captain and a five-time Turkish international at the age of 24. Backup İrfan Can Eğribayat played more than 30 games in Turkey’s first tier last year. After those two options, they have multiple more exciting prospects on their reserves: particularly, Furkan Onur Akyüz.
GK Furkan Onur Akyüz, 17, Fenerbahce
Onur Akyüz was born in Bursa, Turkey, a city just a couple of hours away from Istanbul. In 2020, he joined Fenerbahce’s U15 team, and by 2021 had debuted for their U19 team.
Onur Akyüz became a starter for the U19 team early into the season last year, despite being just 16. Fenerbahce ended up 4th in the league, but they fared significantly better when Onur Akyüz was in goal. In the 16 matches he missed, Fenerbahce won just eight times and kept only seven clean sheets.
In comparison, Onur Akyüz kept ten clean sheets and allowed 22 goals: an average of just one goal a game. This included a clean sheet against rivals Besiktas and a 4-1 win over rivals and eventual league winners Galatasaray.
This season, Onur Akyüz has gotten off to an even stronger start. Onur Akyüz was initially promoted to the reserves of Fenerbahce, making his debut in a narrow 2-1 loss to Konyaspor, but the “Rezerv Lig” appears to have suspended operations for the time being. (This has furthered the discontent of fans who feel that the Turkish FA has not been helping the sport’s development).
In the first match of the U19 season, he kept a clean sheet against the U19s of Kayserispor. Another shutout against Galatasaray followed, then another against Basaksehir. It took until the fourth match of the season for Onur Akyüz to concede (twice). He has appeared on the bench for Fenerbahce’s senior side multiple times, but he has yet to debut.
Onur Akyüz is an impressive goalkeeper with quick reflexes. He’s tall (190 cm, or 6’2″ — about the same height as West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski) but surprisingly quick to get down and challenge for the ball.
He’s saved multiple penalties, is an excellent reader of the ball, and has solid hands which result in an all-around decent goalkeeper. His ball distribution on the ground could be better, and Onur Akyüz is not somebody who will feature as a sweeper keeper. Not bad for a 17-year-old.
Onur Akyüz will likely make his senior debut within the next two or three seasons, as Fenerbahce is a club known for giving young players chances. I would bet on an appearance in the Turkish Cup (Türkiye Kupası) coming first, as it would be a relatively easy start to his Fenerbahce career. Patience will be key, though, as the talented keeper is only 17 but is already ready for a higher level. The sky’s the limit for the Turkish talent.
Image courtesy of Zafer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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