Instead of playing for Bayern and Germany, 18-year-old Kenan Yildiz from Regensburg now plays for Juventus and Turkey. This has led to criticism – but how justified is it?
Roberto Baggio, Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro del Piero name Kenan Yildiz as his role models, and at least one of the three greats seemed to make a brief appearance on the pitch of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening. When he scored his first goal in his second international match for Turkey – and what a goal it was – Yildiz cheered with his arms outstretched and his tongue sticking out, just as del Piero had done earlier.
While the German national team’s view of the future darkened after the 3-2 defeat, the exact opposite was true for Yildiz on the other side. The Turkish association has apparently secured a top talent in the 18-year-old Juventus striker, which at first glance makes two other institutions look bad: the DFB, for whom Yildiz would also have been eligible to play, and FC Bayern, who let him move to Turin in 2022.
Kuntz: “I would be careful to say: ‘The DFB is sleeping here'”
Stefan Kuntz, who had long had Yildiz on his radar before he had to leave as Turkey’s national team coach, defends the DFB. Firstly, many German-Turkish talents are often expected to play for the country of their parents, and secondly, the Turkish association can entice players with appearances for the senior national team much earlier than the German one. “That’s hard to beat,” said Kuntz on Bild TV on Sunday. “I would be careful to say: ‘The DFB is sleeping here’.” Especially as Yildiz’s loyalty was to his father’s country early on.
How much effort the DFB put into Yildiz in the first place is unclear. Antonio Di Salvo, Kuntz’s successor as U-21 national team coach, recently admitted that he is not “currently” involved with the youngster “because I know that he has already played for Turkey’s U-21s”. Although Yildiz’s two senior international appearances mean that he has not yet been “confirmed” for Turkey – he now needs at least four – this is only theoretical. Under Kuntz heir Vincenzo Montella, a Serie A legend like Yildiz’s role models, the first major tournament beckons as early as 2024.
“We can see what he’s capable of in training. He’s young and unconcerned,” said captain Kaan Ayhan on Saturday, after Yildiz had repeatedly caused problems for Germany’s right side of defense. “It’s good to have a young kid like that on the wing, who makes it difficult for the opposition and takes the pressure off us. “
Salihamidzic spoke of excessive financial demands
And Bayern? They had once discovered Yildiz in his hometown of Regensburg and trained him for ten years, but failed to retain the then 17-year-old in 2022. Hasan Salihamidzic had explained that they were unable and unwilling to meet the player’s financial demands, whereupon he gave Juve preference. “Hasan Salihamidzic perhaps didn’t do the job that one or two others would have done,” said RTL expert Lothar Matthäus, criticizing Munich’s sports director at the time.
However, the perspective was obviously right in Turin. “A year and a half ago, when he left Bayern, I got together with him. And he told me: ‘The Italians have presented me with the perfect career plan’,” reveals Kuntz. In the meantime, Yildiz has indeed served his way up at the Italian record champions on schedule to a contract until 2027 plus five short appearances for the professionals and coach Massimiliano Allegri says he could “become a great player”. His ball control and overview are “impressive”.
It is therefore not out of the question that Yildiz will be imitating another Del Piero cheer in a German stadium next summer. The DFB and Bayern would like to avoid these images