Emre Can is Borussia Dortmund's Mr Reliable after a journeyman career. - © Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Emre Can is Borussia Dortmund's Mr Reliable after a journeyman career. - © Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Emre Can: Who is the Borussia Dortmund and Germany all-action midfielder?


A seasoned pro at club level, Borussia Dortmund's Emre Can will be part of Germany's UEFA Euro 2024 squad.

The Frankfurt-born midfielder is every coach’s dream. Aside from his impeccable work ethic, fine technical skills and an imposing 6"0' frame, Can brings to the table an understanding of the game that few players at his level share: throughout his meteoric career, the Germany international has played in almost every outfield position.

While his sturdy physique offers him a defensive edge that has seen most of his coaches deploy him at the back, Can has proven time and again that his well-timed runs and finishing from just outside the box are attacking weapons that simply must be used.

The Bayern Way

Can was always destined for a career in professional football and in 2006, at the age of 12, he was signed to Eintracht Frankfurt’s youth academy. Three years later, Bayern Munich came calling, signing the youngster to their own development scheme, where Can would spend the next couple of years preparing for his professional debut.

After a season in the Regionalliga with Bayern's reserves, Can made his full first-team debut for the Reds in the 2012 Supercup, playing 70 minutes at left-back in a 2-1 victory against his current club Dortmund. He would feature again for Bayern twice in the DFB Cup and four times in the Bundesliga towards the end of the 2012/13 season, playing in both full-back positions and midfield.

Watch: Emre Can: Made in the Bundesliga

The Leverkusen run-off

In the summer of 2013, Can found himself at a crossroads. Although he was technically a 19-year-old treble winner after Jupp Heynckes had led the Bavarians to Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League glory, the competition for a regular spot in midfield was intense, with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luiz Gustavo and Javi Martinez all above him in the pecking order, with skipper Philipp Lahm and David Alaba holding down the right-back and left-back spots respectively.

Pep Guardiola took command of the Bavarian giants that summer and Can completed the full pre-season with the squad, but just days before the start of the 2013/14 league campaign, Bayer Leverkusen offered him an opportunity to shine as a key figure both domestically and in Europe. He jumped at the chance.

Merseyside Story

The campaign started off slowly for the midfielder. He was not a shoo-in for the starting XI and had to earn his big break, serving a long stint at left-back midway through the season only to return to his preferred role in central midfield towards the end. He managed three goals and three assists in the Bundesliga in his time at the BayArena, but more importantly, he had caught the eye with his immense potential.

Although Bayern had an option in his contract to bring him back to Munich, English giants Liverpool entered the fray and triggered his release clause in the summer of 2014.

Former Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp (r.) was a big fan of Can's and restored him to his preferred midfield position at Anfield. - AFP / Getty Images

After his arrival at Anfield, Can was used across the defence by coach Brendan Rodgers for most of the 2014/15 season. The Northern Irishman soon paid the price for a rocky start the following year, though, and Liverpool brought in a face familiar to Can from his Bundesliga days: Klopp. Under the iconic coach, Can returned (once again) to his favoured position in the spine of the team.

Can's explosion as a name to remember among the very elite came in the 2016/17 season, when he finally enjoyed some positional stability. Save for a couple of minor injuries, his season went just as he would have wanted: there were no experiments with his on-field position and no doubts as to his value in Klopp's system.

The personal highlight was without question a wonder goal against Watford, his acrobatic bicycle kick from Lucas Leiva's lobbed assist named the official Premier League Goal of the Season.

“He's a good boy and a good player,” said an amazed Klopp after the match. “People wondered what was wrong with him, but we needed him in these moments. Sometimes he wasn't as good as he could have been, but now those problems are sorted. He is physically strong and he can build on these performances. And he can score goals like this!”

Although he does not score often, this wonder goal against Watford was named the official Premier League Goal of the Season in 2016/17. - 2017 Getty Images

An ace up Jogi’s sleeve

In 2017/18, Can proved his worth to Liverpool time and again, and was particularly instrumental in the Reds' win against Hoffenheim in a Champions League qualifying play-off, scoring twice in the second leg.

Although his heritage would have made him eligible to play at international level for Turkey, Can chose to represent his country of birth after turning out for Germany at every level from U-15 upwards. In August 2015, he finally got the call from national coach Joachim Löw to represent his country, making his international debut at right-back in a 3-1 win against Poland.

His international career mirrored the start to his club career, Can being used as a jack-of-all-trades and switching between both full-back roles and central midfield during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers.

After that tournament, during which he only featured in the semi-finals against hosts France, he returned to the international fold in 2017, turning out regularly during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, netting his first international goal against Azerbaijan, and Germany's successful Confederations Cup campaign.

Injury denied him a chance to make the trip to Russia, but at Italy's Old Lady, Can was effectively an ever-present in his first season, missing just nine league games - all through injury - and contributing to Juventus lifting an eighth consecutive Scudetto, as part of a side featuring Cristiano Ronaldo.

Can won the Serie A title with Juventus in his only full season with the Italian club. - 2019 Getty Images

Deployed exclusively as a central midfielder at the Bianconeri, he found his opportunities limited under Maurizio Sarri in the first half of the 2019/20 season, partly due to the presence of compatriot Sami Khedira, but also the Italian coach's preference for Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi and Adrien Rabiot, but Juve's loss became Dortmund's gain as Can returned to the Bundesliga in January 2020, seeking to boost his chances of making Germany's Euro 2020 squad - something he managed to do after his loan deal became permanent in 2021 and he became a regular for the Black & Yellows.

Can has averaged 28 Bundesliga appearances per season across his first five full campaigns for BVB, helping them finish as runners-up in 2022/23 and reach the Champions League final the following year. The 30-year-old heads to Euro 2024 as a last-minute replacement for Aleksandar Pavlović in Julian Nagelsmann's squad, with 43 senior caps and a wealth of top-level experience under his belt.

A return to the Bundesliga with Dortmund helped Emre Can secure a place in the Germany squad for Euro 2020. - Elmar Kremser/SVEN SIMON via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Sven Simon