Turkey’s youth development system is a bit pointless, to be honest. Coaches first look for physical characteristics and have no tolerance for incapable players. They do not want to give these players time for improvement. Most coaches don’t know how to teach basic fundamentals. For example, if Thomas Müller was from Turkey, there is no way that he would make it anywhere near the national team.
The other problem of youth development of Turkey is uneducated football coaches, who after retiring from football have an opportunity to get licence from Turkish FA with just a little bit of tuition, not enough to educate young players.
Galatasaray are one of the best clubs in Turkey in terms of producing young starlets, but many of them fail to successfully make the transfer over to the senior team. Emre Colak is the latest one to come through, and although he has made his way into the first team, there is still room for improvement.
Emre Colak was born in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. When he was 13, he moved to Galatasaray’s youth academy from Atışalanıspor; his coaches were very optimistic about his future at the club. In the last couple of seasons he has improved as a player, with fans of the Sarı-Kırmızılılar considering him to be the biggest thing to come through from Turkey’s most successful club since Arda Turan.
He played for the youth ranks until he reached the first team, with Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard giving him his first shot; he made his debut in the second half against Denizli Belediyespor in a Turkish Cup match and Emre managed to score twice in five minutes in a 5-1 victory. It was a commendable performance on his debut, scoring from a penalty and a sweetly executed free-kick; it gave him the opportunity to enhance his playing time in the first team.
It’s been a couple of seasons that he has been playing for the senior team but still remains a rotation player and hasn’t been able to stamp down a more regular starting berth.
He made 11 appearances for the first team in the 2009/10 season in the Turkish Süper Lig and the domestic cup, scoring four goals following impressive performances for the reserve side in which he scored 26 goals in 44 appearances.
Seventeen appearances followed the next season, including his continental debut in UEFA’s second-tier competition, the Europa League. Now out of his teenage years, Emre Colak had to start earning more game time in the first team. He was rewarded with a total of 31 appearances in the 2011/12 campaign during which he found the back of the net four times, and it seemed like he was finally beginning to impress the Gala management as they offered him a new contract. Emre received his one and only red card that campaign as well.
This past 12/13 campaign, Emre Colak made his first step into the UEFA Champions League, making appearances in all six of Galatasaray’s group games, including one at Old Trafford.
He failed to appear in any of Galatasaray’s knock-out stage games as the Turkish side impressively reached the quarter-finals. Colak scored just twice in the season, a tally which included a third-minute goal against Besiktas in one of Turkish football’s biggest games as Galatasaray ran off as 2-1 winners despite being down to 10 men, following Felipe Melo’s sending-off.
While with Galatasaray, Emre started to appear at various age groups of Turkish national teams. He represented his country in every age group, U-15, U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, U-20, u-21 and A2.
His senior debut came against Romania in a World Cup qualifier, coming on in the 69th minute for Bundesliga-based player, Sercan Sararer, in a 1-0 home defeat. He has massive international experience, being called up 102 times for various levels of the Turkish national team.
Emre Colak can play everywhere in midfield. He can play as a left or right-winger, but for me his best position is in a central attacking role; a role in which Galatasaray have prospered in the past.
Colak has a great chance to learn from Wesley Sneijder, Didier Drogba, Burak Yilmaz, Selçuk İnan, Hamit Altıntop and the rest, as Galatasaray possess a wealth of experience in their current squad. Playing alongside these talented footballers will help him become a better player both mentally and technically.
Probably his playing time will be limited for next season but everyday being in the same training ground with these players will help his evolution.
In modern football, every midfielder has to be effective both in defence and attack. Emre is good at attacking but he has some areas to improve in terms of defence, especially in zonal defensive areas. He is a real danger when he has the ball at his feet, while his versatility and capability of playing different roles is a real threat.
He had decent games against Besiktas and Fenerbahce as a left winger where he was able to showcase his technical attributes. Good ball control and first-touch characterise his general football. He has a neat passing ability, which helps in completing through balls from midfield.
He retains his position on the field, and his energetic nature further complements his game. Colak is constantly seen pressing the opponent almost every minute of the game but still being mature enough to retain his original position.
His vision on the pitch is enviable. He has shown that everytime he played last season. With more game time, he can become a more mature and experienced player. Up untill now, he has managed to combine his technical gifts with his vision.
The young Turk is good at one-on-ones when he is alone with the opponent and it helps him to contribute better crosses or passes to the strikers; although some improvements can be made in his decision-making.
For me his vital strength (which helps him as a part of the team) is the way he makes himself available to receive a pass. He changes his position constantly, showcasing some swift movement, and always gives his team-mates the option of making a pass but the problem is if he can’t get rid of the tight marking, he can’t control the ball and spread the ball efficiently.
He fails to be decisive early and is often seen ‘moving before thinking’, which restricts his fluency. Emre Colak needs to work on improving this decision-making issue, and consequently improving his awareness on a football pitch as well.
Emre’s main weakness, it has to be said, is his physique. He is too small compared to any player, which consequently makes him physically weak as well. There are thousands of ‘small’ players all around the world, for example Xavi, but unlike Colak the Spaniard manages to use his balance to overcome his lack of physical strength. This issue with physicality was seen even during his youth football days, and the transition to the first team only worsened his ability to compete. He struggles on the pitch to win duels, owing again to his lack of physical strength. He needs to do extra training on his strength, while his natural speed and acceleration is sufficient.
The other weakness is his lack of knowledge of football which is related to uneducated football coaches. They’re unable to teach youngsters the tactics which they haven’t quite grasped themselves. Lack of knowledge is the primary problem for young Turkish players, and its domestic league.
His promotion to the senior team has helped, but this lack of knowledge has effected his ability in terms of retaining possession. Sometimes, you can see that he struggles to get used to tactics on the pitch and may lose control. He has failed to combine the components of his game style, especially his natural technical ability.
“I want to give him more playing time but he needs to insist on working hard to play more. He is always on the training ground to improve and I am very happy for him, he’ll be a better player soon and everybody will realize it.”
—Fatih Terim (Galatasaray Manager)
“He was just 13 when I first saw him, he was pure talent and he was flawless when he has the ball at his feet.”
—Recep Yazici (Galatasaray Youth Coach)
“We have high expectations from Emre, he’ll be better player as he gets experienced, we are extremely happy with him and he can only get better.”
—Hasan Sas (Galatasaray Assistant Manager)
Emre Colak is part of the same Sports Management agency (PHM Management) that owns Burak Yilmaz, the most well-known Turkish player in World football currently. His future depends on his progression. If achieved, I can see him becoming an integral part of the Galatasaray squad.
On the other hand, if he fails to make a significant impact then Galatasaray can use him in transfer deals. There are a couple of rising starlets in Turkish league and several years later, they will be able to play for the national team, such as Salih Ucan. If Emre can still be the same player in next two years, then he can receive regular national team call-ups, provided he develops further as he still remains a fairly raw talent (a drawback since he’s already 22). He will be a better player if he remains a major part of Galatasaray’s project.
From this season on, Turkish clubs can have at most six foreign players in the first eleven and only four foreigners on the bench; this is the other reason why Galatasaray won’t let him go. It’s hard to find qualified Turkish players and Galatasaray need an extensive squad to compete both in Europe and the domestic League. It would be logical to keep him in the team with the potential he has.