Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sven Must Combat Harry Potter's Spell

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sven Must Combat Harry Potter's Spell

Article excerpt


ONE comes over like a fresh-faced angel, all boyish enthusiasm and charm, while the other is more worldly, unpredictable and a bit moody, carrying a whiff of danger about him.

Between them, though, Emre Belozoglu and Sergen 'Harry Potter' Yalcin, the two very different magicians of Turkish football, have already cast a spell over English - make that London - footballing ambitions this past three weeks.

Now for their next trick in Istanbul - and this time the danger is that it's England's European Championship hopes which could end up disappearing amid the smoke of a thousand flares here in the Sukru Saracoglu stadium tomorrow.

"Yes, it would be good if we can do the same against England as we did to their teams in the Champions League. I believe we can," smiled Emre, the Internazionale midfielder who helped take Arsenal to the cleaners at Highbury just a fortnight before Sergen's double for Besiktas saw off Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Glancing across at his midfield colleague at the Besiktas training ground, Emre, with his choirboy face, looked and sounded a bit like an awe-struck kid. At 23, he is a princely young talent but, like everyone else here, seems to have been hypnotised by the return of Turkey's favourite old wayward maestro.

"Like Harry Potter, the magician of football creates positions from nothing, he scores and assists," boomed the sports daily Fotomac after Sergen had put the first dent in the Roman Abramovich era. Within days, the 31-year-old was back in the national team fold. Now, presuming he's over a slight knock he received in training, he could be about to make his first start for his country for two years.

For the home fans, it must have felt like welcoming back some rascally Gazza-type icon.

Nine years after he marked his debut with a goal within three minutes, the old playboy/bad boy is back out there carrying a few pounds overweight but still pulling all the strings again.

Past misdemeanours, such as insulting national coaches or getting sent off in crucial matches thanks to his hopeless short fuse - he used to be portrayed more as Draco Malfoy than Harry Potter - have been forgiven and forgotten now the cultured, unhurried left foot is purring again.

"It is a pleasure to play and learn alongside this great player," reckoned Emre, modestly brushing aside the suggestion that it's his own left foot which is even more critical to Turkey's chances here.

Anyone who witnessed Emre's buzzsaw performance at Highbury could recognise his menace.

"I loved that night," he said. "It may have looked easy against Arsenal but it wasn't. It was one of my best games but this is going to be so much harder.

"Yet even though we haven't beaten England before and we haven't even got a goal against them, we have one of the best teams in the world now. …

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