In the 86th minute of a crucial European Championship Qualifier match, Kenan Yıldız enters the pitch. Yıldız, an 18-year-old attacker from the German city of Regensburg, earned his first call-up after a strong start to the season with Juventus. But Yıldız — formerly of Bayern Munich — isn’t making his Germany debut. He’s making his debut for Turkey.
Yıldız is eligible for Turkey through his father and played for both the u17 and the u21 Turkish national teams. After his recent appearances for Juventus, it was rumored that Germany was interested in him — so Turkey sprung into action, giving the 18-year-old his first senior cap.
Of course, Germany can’t keep everyone from switching. Lazar Samardzic, Malik Tillman, Gabriel Vidović, and Can Uzun are just a few German-born players who have recently chosen to represent other nations, whether at youth or senior level. However, with Yıldız already earning minutes in Turin, it’s worth wondering whether Germany should have made a bigger push to have him represent Die Mannschaft.
After joining Bayern’s academy at the age of 7, Yıldız quickly progressed through the club’s various youth levels. By the time he was 16, he was playing for Bayern’s u19s and was seen as one of the club’s top prospects. Despite this, the DFB declined to give him a call-up — at any level — and Yıldız joined Turkey’s u17s.
The following summer, Yıldız became a free agent, and, with reported interest from Barcelona and Ajax, he joined Italian giants Juventus. In his first season with the club, he played with the u19s, scoring a brace in the UEFA Youth Cup against PSG. By the end of the Primavera season, he had scored eleven goals and assisted seven.
With Germany (and not Turkey) participating in the u21 European Championships this summer, it would have been an ideal last chance to try to win Yıldız over. No dice. Germany instead opted for a very experienced side, several of whom had already been given senior caps.
This season Juventus has been forced into giving youngsters playing time, and Yıldız has taken advantage of this. He has come off the bench four times so far, earning praise from Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri for his performances and potential.
It was reported by Fabrizio Romano that Germany had suddenly taken an interest in the youngster, but Yıldız had already committed to Turkey. When Turkey subbed him on against Croatia, they had confirmed the arrival of a very talented prospect.
The Turkish national team has the potential to be exceptionally good. They have a young, talented core of players like Arda Güler and Orkun Kökçü, and adding Yıldız to this equation just makes the team more talented. Soon, they could recruit more German-born players, such as Can Uzun or Eyüp Aydın.
As for Germany, they need to start recruiting dual nationals more actively. Ten years ago, a decision between Turkey and Germany would have been easy. Now, it’s certainly much tougher — and the DFB needs to act, or the next Mesut Özil will not represent Die Mannschaft. In fact, they may have already lost him, now that Kenan Yıldız is officially a Turkish international.
Image Courtesy of juventus.com