Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu has been asked to serve a four-month ban after FIFA found that he had breached the terms of a contract penned with Turkish club Trabzonspor back when he was a teenager at German club Karlsruher. The 22-year-old has also been asked to pay €100,000 in compensation after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the FIFA ban that had been frozen following an appeal should be reinstated.
As a result, Calhanoglu cannot play for Leverkusen or Turkey until June 2017. It means he will miss the rest of the Bundesliga season and also Turkey’s World Cup qualifier. The ban will hurt ninth-placed Leverkusen more – a club that regularly qualifies for the Champions League.
“It's a heavy blow for Hakan, but also for us. Although Bayer Leverkusen had nothing to do with the events in 2011, we are now being heavily punished.
“Now we’re missing a very important player during a decisive part of the season.” – Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller.
Calhanoglu had signed for Karlsruhe SC’s U-17 team back in 2009 where he swiftly made his way to the senior team over the next two seasons. At the time, the 17-year-old was also playing for the U-19 team when Turkish Super Lig side Trabzonspor scouted him and made their intent known to his father that they wanted to sign him.
Calhanoglu’s family is originally from Trabzon and the club was in contact with his father who was also his representative. They agreed to pay an advance of €100,000 in return for Calhanoglu’s signature when he turned 18 and a young Hakan agreed after his father convinced him to sign.
But soon after, Calhanoglu signed for Hamburger SV instead and that was when Trabzonspor felt something was amiss. The club soon filed a complaint with FIFA in 2013 and asked FIFA to ban the player for six months and also sued for €1m in compensation.
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Calhanoglu is banned but allowed to play after an appeal
FIFA took a while to deliberate on the case and by then Calhanoglu had moved on to Bayer Leverkusen for a fee of €14.5m. It wasn’t a smooth transfer as he had taken ‘sick leave’ after a psychologist had deemed him unfit for playing. Fan unrest had contributed to that and having his car vandalised by irate Hamburger fans who got wind of his impending transfer had also affected him.
However, he flourished at Leverkusen and that was when FIFA came to a decision towards the end of the 2015/16 season. The authorities sided with Trabzonspor and handed the player a 4-month ban.
But Calhanoglu appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport “accompanied by a request to stay the execution of his four-month ban, pending the outcome of the CAS proceedings.” FIFA’s ruling was thus frozen on the grounds that Trabzonspor had approached the player directly instead of approaching the club Karlsruher.
As a result, Calhanoglu was allowed to finish the season with Leverkusen, helping the club finish third and qualify for the Champions League. The attacking midfielder was also allowed to represent Turkey at Euro 2016 (although they failed to qualify for the knockout stages in a group where Croatia and Spain advanced).
Calhanoglu’s appeal fails and he is banned
After the first ruling was frozen, the CAS Panel changed their ruling and Calhanoglu was deemed guilty of breaching the contract he signed as a 17-year-old. They ruled that he had breached the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (FIFA RSTP) without just cause.
FIFA banned him for four months and he was asked to return the €100,000 to Trabzonspor. However, Calhanoglu will not have to pay the extra €1m after the CAS ruled that Trabzonspor “did not comply with due diligence requirements in this matter” as quoted by Law in Sport.
“I'll accept the decision and look forward. I'm sure that after my ban, I'll come back stronger and give my all for Bayer Leverkusen, Turkey and my fans.” – Calhanoglu
What next for Calhanoglu?
The Turkish midfielder has been linked with a number of clubs, including Premier League leaders Chelsea. Rumours of interest from Arsenal and Manchester United also made the rounds while La Liga side Atletico Madrid were also looking to sign him according to his agent.
If Leverkusen do not qualify for the Champions League, they may not be able to stand in his way if he wishes to leave. With higher wages and a chance to play in the Champions League, Calhanoglu could leave the Bundesliga. His current market value is €18m and his contract runs out in 2019.
A bid in the region of €20m to €25m could force Leverkusen’s hand. But until June, fans will not get to see one of the best free-kick takers in Europe in action.