by Tom Lees - 6th February 2016
In the summer of 2015, Manchester City paid a reported $2 million for a teenage forward from Turkey, making him their first signing of the summer. The teenager in question was Enes Ünal, a player who had recently broken through into the first team at Bursaspor and was now the hottest prospect in Turkish football.
Enes Ünal is a product of the Bursaspor youth academy, and he would make his first team debut for the club aged just 16 in a Europa League qualifying round match in August 2013. Three weeks later he scored on his Süper Lig debut against Galatasaray, making him the youngest ever scorer in the Turkish top division. Ünal would continue to make a number of appearances for Bursaspor over the next two seasons, mostly used as a substitute before making the big money move to Manchester in 2015.
After joining the Premier League club, Ünal joined his new team on the pre-season tour of Australia before agreeing a two-year loan move to Belgian side Genk in a move designed to give the forward some much needed game exposure. Again most appearances were to come from the substitutes bench in Belgium and after only six months the loan deal was cancelled as Manchester City decided to relocate their young asset to the Netherlands with NAC Breda in January 2016. Now at NAC, Ünal will be hoping to become a first team starter as the side push for promotion, at only 18 years of age though the forward has time on his side but will be eager to push for International selection this summer so playing time will be key.
Enes Ünal has represented his nation at all levels, and his record for the Turkish youth teams is frightening, 8 goals in 9 for the Under 17’s, 6 in 6 for the Under 19’s, promoted to the Under 21 side when he was just 16, scoring 2 goals in 9 appearances (7 of those as a substitute). Then two months before his 18th birthday, he was awarded his first senior cap for Turkey in a friendly victory over Luxembourg, this remains his only cap to date. The inclusion at such a young age shows the potential of the player and how highly he is regarded by the Turkish selectors.
Although for the young International sides his scoring record suggests he is an out and finisher, at club level Ünal tends to drop off the front, picking up the ball and running at defenders looking to link up play. This has tempered his goal scoring ratio in domestic football, but shows he has a lot more to his game than just a goal getter. After all he is still young and finding his way in football, adding different skills to his palette can only be a good thing for his career progression.
The future for Ünal is very bright, although it’ll be a tough ask to break into the Manchester City team, especially with Pep Guardiola likely to overhaul the squad upon his arrival. Maybe a series of loan moves will give the forward the experience he needs, but to become the star he has the potential to be he may need to seek regular football at a more permanent location. As Turkey head to France for this summer’s European Championships, Ünal will be desperate to make the squad, a strong end to the season in Holland is vital if the forward is to achieve that dream. Whether he makes it or not though, Enes Ünal is a name we will be hearing a lot more of in the future. The wonderkid of Turkish football could become one of the biggest stars in the game.