The End of the ‘Turkish Passion’: Arda Güler and Salih Özcan Aim to Make History at Wembley

The Madridista Arda Güler (Altindag, 2005) and the ‘borussen’ Salih Özcan (Cologne, 1998) could put an end on June 1st at Wembley to one of the great ‘curses’ that still linger in the world of football. Salih Özcan, with Borussia Dortmund. According to UEFA, 619 players from 52 different nationalities have played and won the Champions League/European Cup final so far. However, there is no Turkish player among them.

Countries with the most players who have played and won a European Cup final:
• Spain –> 78
• Italy –> 72
• England –> 69
• Germany –> 65
• Netherlands –> 52
• Brazil –> 43
• Portugal –> 42
• France –> 34
• Scotland –> 26
• Argentina –> 12
• Romania –> 12

To date, four Ottomans have played in the final without luck. They are still far from Greece, the country that has provided the most representatives in a final without winning it (12). The first Turk to try, chronologically, was Yildiray Bastürk (Herne, Germany; 1978). The former Bayer Leverkusen ’10’, a starter, crashed, curiously, against Real Madrid (1-2) in the 2001-02 edition. He was succeeded by another Turk born in Germany: Hamit Altintop (Gelsenkirchen, 1982). He did so as part of the Bayern team that lost the final against Inter (0-2) at the Bernabéu in 2009-10. The former Real Madrid player also started, but in his case, he was substituted by Klose in the 63rd minute.

The third party was also born in Germany… and also passed through Real Madrid. Furthermore, he will be a rival of Madrid – as part of Edin Terzic’s staff – at Wembley. We are talking about Nuri Sahin (Lüdenscheid, 1988). The Turk had minutes, as a substitute, in the final that Borussia Dortmund lost to Bayern (1-2) in 2012-13: he came on for Sven Bender almost at the end, in the 92nd minute. Another German-Turkish player, Hakan Çalhanoglu (Mannheim, 1994), closed the relationship. The Inter ‘regista’ could have put an end to the curse in grand style, in Istanbul, last season. He started – played 84 minutes – but could not prevent the defeat against Manchester City (1-0) at the Atatürk.

Arda Güler vs. Salih Özcan
Two new Ottomans, Salih Özcan (17 caps, 0 goals) and Arda Güler (6 caps, 1 goal), now have the opportunity to end the particular ‘Turkish passion’ with the Champions League. However, they depend on Edin Terzic and Carlo Ancelotti granting them minutes at Wembley. Only time will tell.

Özcan has accumulated 439 minutes in the Champions League so far. However, he did not play in the semi-finals – neither in the first leg nor in the second leg – against Paris Saint-Germain. On the other hand, Güler has not made his debut in this season’s Champions League yet. He could make a grand entrance. In his favor, he also has a distinctive element to break the ‘curse’: unlike his predecessors, he is the only one born in Turkey.