Who is Ozan Kabak?
Ozan Kabak. It’s hardly a household name. That could all change in the coming months and years though with the 20-year-old centre back very highly rated. Here we take a deeper look at who Ozan Kabak is.
Kabak was born in Ankara, Turkey’s second biggest city, but actually spent his formative years some 1,000km east of there and near to the Syrian border. At the age of 11, another big move was on the cards. This time, it took him from Derik to Istanbul. He’d just been offered a chance to play in the Galatasaray youth setup. Of course, he jumped at the opportunity to join one of his country’s biggest clubs.
During the early stages of his development towards the professional game he was actually deployed as a centre forward. The coaching staff gradually dropped him deeper and deeper until he ended up in his now familiar role of centre back. His performances at Galatasaray earned him call ups to various Turkish youth levels. First with the under 15s and at each age group up to the under 18s. He’s since won his senior call up too and now has four caps to his name.
Breaking into senior football
The Super Lig is no playground for easing youngsters in. The standard of football is reasonable and the atmosphere can be hugely imitating. Kabak was handed a late taste of it back in May 2018 as he made his debut. He had just turned 18-years-old. By the time the next season began Kabak was firmly in the first team picture as he became a near permanent fixture in the Galatasaray back four.
He even made his Champions League debut playing 90 minutes as his team held Porto to a goalless draw. All in all, he played in four group games and made 13 Super Lig appearances. He completed the full 90 in 12 of them. 13 games doesn’t sound like much over a season. It’s not. His time in Turkey came to an end when Bundesliga side Stuttgart came calling.
Bossing it in the Bundesliga
After signing for the Bundesliga strugglers for £10m, he became an instant hit with the Reds fan base. Kabak slotted in seamlessly to their defensive unit playing 15 games between signing in mid-January and the end of the campaign; he scored three goals along the way. He started all but one game – a final day draw with Schalke – and was never subbed. Stuttgart were relegated. Their brief love affair with Kabak was over. He joined Schalke for £13.5m.
A foot injury in pre-season somewhat hampered his start to life under David Wagner as he barely kicked a ball in the opening nine games of the season. When the minutes came though, Kabak took his chance. His first start came in a cup match but his display earned him his first league start a few days later. Schalke recorded a 3-2 win away at Augsburg with Kabak netting his first goal for the club. He followed it up with another 90 minutes at home to Düsseldorf. Kabak scored again. His place at the heart of the defence was beginning to look nailed on.
He remained a regular in the team until a back injury forced him to miss a few games. He was quickly brought back into the fold after his recovery though. Despite his inexperience, he had already become an important figure in Schalke’s side. The current season started the same way but a late red card against Werder Bremen has seen him suspended since.
Style of play
Kabak might be young in years but he plays the game like a much wiser head. He rarely goes to ground, which helps his tackle success rate of 84.1% whilst he also managed 1.9 interceptions, 1.8 blocks and a mighty impressive 4.8 clearances per 90 throughout last season. On top of that, he’s strong in an aerial sense too with a 67.3% win rate.
It takes more than being a solid defender to register on the radar of top clubs nowadays though. Kabak can do it all. We’ve already touched on the fact that he chips in with the odd goal but it’s his confidence to break that first press that will really have coaches excited. The 20-year-old is comfortable on the ball, which is supported by his pass completion of 81.5%. That percentage ramps up to 87.9% when you focus on his shorter passes. He can carry the ball too; that’s evidenced with the 1.3 dribbles per 90 he attempts with 88.5% of them successful.
In terms of football index potential, Kabak ticks two boxes. Firstly, his current price of £0.91 will surely grow as his career continues to blossom. Then there is the way he plays the game. That style will be friendly to the PB metrics and he scooped the top defender on his international debut for his only dividend win to date. His stats on a domestic front don’t support our claim with an average PB score of 80 but it’s important to factor in where he’s playing his football at this moment in time.
What does the future hold for Ozan Kabak?
The link hitting the headlines at the moment is ‘Ozan Kabak to Liverpool’. Is that lazy journalism? Quite possibly. The Reds have just lost Virgil Van Dijk for an extended period whilst Jurgen Klopp and Kabak’s boss Wagner have a close relationship. It remains to be seen whether the player really does feature on Liverpool’s shopping list.
Even if he doesn’t, it’s surely only a matter of time before he moves to the next stepping stone. Both Milan clubs – AC and Inter – have been linked with moves whilst it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see RB Leipzig make an enquiry for him if and when Dayot Upamecano moves on from the Red Bull Arena.
There you have it, a brief guide to the young centre back Ozan Kabak.