Aged 19, Cengiz Ünder is already both a regular for his club and a senior international. Meet the left-winger making a splash in the Turkish Super League.
Name: Cengiz Ünder
Club: İstanbul Başakşehir
Debut: 24 September 2014 for Altınordu v Menemen
Born: 14 July 1997
Preferred foot: left
They say …
“Cengiz is a player with important qualities. He has improved quicker than I expected. He is only just starting out, but I believe he will achieve big things.”
Abdullah Avcı, İstanbul Başakşehir coach
“I see Cengiz being one step ahead of other players due to his playing style and outlook on life. Praise should go to his former club Altınordu for this. He is one of the leading talents in Turkish football. He needs to make himself stronger physically and then set a target of moving to a bigger Turkish or European club.”
Emre Belözoğlu, İstanbul Başakşehir captain
©İstanbul Başakşehir FK
Born in Sindirgi, Cengiz took his first footballing steps at Izmir club Bucaspor between 2007 and 2013. He then switched to Altınordu, where his former youth academy coordinator, Seyit Mehmet Özkan, took over as president.
The pacy winger promptly became a regular for Altınordu after turning professional in 2014, scoring 11 goals in 51 league appearances over two seasons. İstanbul Başakşehir beat off stiff competition for his services last summer.
Cengiz, who has begun every league game this term, made his senior international debut in November, coming off the bench in Turkey’s 2-0 victory over Kosovo in the European Qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. That was a mere two months after he had broken into the Crescent Stars’ Under-21 side.
Swift and direct in his approach, Cengiz can play on either flank since he is adept with his weaker right foot. The teenager displays a maturity and calmness beyond his years.
©İstanbul Başakşehir FK
Shades of …
… Fenerbahçe’s Volkan Şen, certainly in terms of his forward runs and dribbling ability. However, Cengiz, not averse to shooting from distance, is perhaps a better finisher.
Cengiz volleyed title-chasing Başakşehir in front away to Beşiktaş in November, finishing off a fast break. Coming in such an intimidating stadium, it was a huge confidence boost for the youngster.
Best-case scenario …
Having consigned hitherto first-choice winger Doka to the substitutes’ bench this season, Cengiz will hope to cement his place for the rest of the campaign and also gain more international experience, starting with the next round of European Qualifiers in March.
Başakşehir are likely to be in Europe again next term, possibly the UEFA Champions League group stage, meaning a wider showcase for his talents.
He says …
“There are lots of experienced players in our squad, but I didn’t struggle to adapt. I think it’s to do with my character: I am generally comfortable and don’t get overexcited.”
“I worked hard to get the chance to play for Başakşehir and the national team. I want to work even harder now to wear the national jersey for a long time.”