By far the most successful Turkish player to play outside his homeland is Nihat Kahveci. He didn’t achieve this feat easily but his path to success could not have been planned better. He got where he is today step by step.
Nihat was born on 23rd November 1979 in İstanbul. He started his career at Beşiktaş in the youth team.When John Benjamin Toshack was manager of Beşiktaş, he brought Nihat into the senior side, having been convinced of his potential by the youth team coach in the 1997/1998 season.
Nihat became the favourite player of Beşiktaş fans very quickly, with his pacey action packed performances on the right wing. In the 1998 Turkish Cup final, Nihat scored the winning goal to defeat bitter rivals Galatasaray and bring he cup back to Beşiktaş . In six successful years at the club he played 144 games and scored 65 goals for the Black Eagles. In 2000 he was first picked for the national side.
Nihat took his chance to move abroad in 2002 to link up with old manager John Benjamin Toshack at Real Sociedad for a fee of €5 million. This was to prove a milestone in his career.
At Real Sociedad he blended very well with Darko Kovacevic and both helped the club to second place in La Liga, which was a huge achievement for the club and one of its best seasons for years.
In his second season with Sociedad, the duo took the team to the last 16 in the Champions League for the first time. Real Sociedad were Nihat’s first team in La Liga, and he scored more than 50 goals in four seasons, equalling the record Ronaldo had set of being one of a select few foreign players to achieve do this.
Villareal signed him at the start of the 2006/2007 season on a free transfer. He started his career at Villareal with high expectations but in the middle of the season a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the campaign.
After his second big knee injury he return to action with explosive performances and scored 18 goals in La Liga this season. This put him as Villarreal’s leading goalscorer and fourth overall in the Spanish goal charts. Of course this performance opened the doors of the national team.
Nihat has been involved with the national side since 2000 when he was first picked and he has already been involved in some key achievements. Turkey’s biggest successes in the 2002 World Cup and 2003 Confederations Cup both featured an in-form Nihat. With those experiences and the high performance in La Liga he became is a key player for Turkey in the Euros.
Nihat has already played a huge part in getting Turkey to Austria/Switzerland. He scored the winning goals in both games against Norway and Bosnia, which Turkey needed to win to ensure progression.
He hasn’t got any real weakness except his heading ability, because of his lack of height, but this is understandable. It also helps him with a key strength that he does possess. As everbody knows short players are faster than the tall players and that makes him dangerous when Turkey counter-attack.
In his early career he was a right winger at Beşiktaş and that helped him develop his dribbling ability high and Nihat can beat opponents with ease. Added to pace and dribbling ability is the ability to shoot hard from long distance. He can also score from free-kicks like he did in Turkey’s last friendly game against Uruguay.
The skills he possesses make him dangerous all over the pitch, and I believe opposing sides will need to watch him carefully, otherwise in a second he can be in a goalscoring position. At 28 years-old Nihat is probably at the peak of his career, the Euros are his time to show exactly what he can do. He is going to be the most dangerous player in the Turkish team, and Fatih Terim considers him as his “right-hand man” on the pitch.