ISTANBUL: The top scorer for Istanbul’s Besiktas last season and one of the standout players of the current Champions League, Turkish striker Cenk Tosun is now firmly in the sights of clubs from the Premiership and elsewhere.
Tosun tore apart the defense of Monaco in a memorable away win for Besiktas in the Champions League group stage clash on October 17, scoring two goals and effectively ending the hopes of last year’s semi finalists of going any further.
Besiktas, well ahead on top of group G, on Wednesday take on Monaco at home for the return tie, seeking another giant stride to qualification for the knockout stages.
The scintillating performances of the Germany-born Tosun, 26, who has scored eight goals in all competitions this year alone, have not gone unnoticed outside of Turkey.
The British press have reported that Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Everton are all interested in the striker while interest has also been noted from AC Milan.
There are hopes in Turkey, where Tosun has made 23 appearances for his home country, that the player will emerge as a striker of international class.
Turkey has not had such a marksman since the days of Hakan Sukur, who helped his country to third place in the 2002 World Cup but then fell into disgrace over his links with the preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the 2016 failed coup.
“I work a lot,” said Tosun, explaining his success. “I work collectively and individually and I hope to make up for my weak points.”
Born to Turkish parents in the German town of Wetzlar, Tosun is one of a growing number of Turkish origin players such as Hakan Calhanoglu and Emre Mor who were born abroad but have chosen to play for Turkey.
Tosun came through the youth system of Eintracht Frankfurt and played several times for German national youth teams.
He moved to Gazinantep in southeast Turkey in 2011 and then secured a transfer to Besiktas in 2014.
The club has seen star strikers come and go in the last years, especially Demba Ba in 2014 and then Mario Gomez in 2015 and it took Tosun some time to find a regular first team place.
But he did not complain. “I got a lot of experience playing next to Demba Ba and Mario Gomez,” he said. And the patience paid off, with Tosun the club’s top scorer with 24 goals as it retained the title in 2017.
His father Senol, who remains in charge of his career, taught him to be a versatile player by forbidding him from using his right foot all the time.
As a result, Tosun scored his three goals in the Champions League this season with one via the right foot (against Porto) and a header and left-footed goal against Monaco.
His heroes are the great Argentinian playmaker Gabriel Batistuta and also the basketball icon Michael Jordan. He wears the number 23 shirt of the former Chicago Bulls star in hommage to him.
In Turkey, he is known as Tosun Pasha, in reference to a popular Turkish 1970s comedy show.
The British press has put a 20 million sterling (23 million euros) price tag on the player and Besiktas could be sorely tempted by a good offer when the transfer window reopens.
Few Turkish players have had major success in Europe in the last years, with international stars like Arda Turan of Barcelona and Calhanoglu of Milan major exceptions to the rule.
But Tosun insists his loyalty is with the Black Eagles. “I have been a supporter of Besiktas since I was young. I have no desire to leave. Not now.”