Germany and Turkey share a historic and societal connection, with countless Crescent-Star internationals having plied their trade in the Bundesliga. Ahead of the two nations' clash on Saturday (kick-off: 8.45pm CET), bundesliga.com takes a look at the five of the best Turkish players the German top flight has seen down the years.
Position: Right midfielder
Bundesliga clubs: Schalke (2003-07), Bayern Munich (2007-11), Darmstadt (2017-18)
Bundesliga appearances: 192 (15 goals)
The 82-time Türkiye international is not only one of the best from his country to grace the Bundesliga, but also one of the leading Turkish players of all-time. Hamit started out for Wattenscheid 09 in 2000 alongside his brother, Halil, although it soon became clear he was destined for far bigger things.
His first port of call amongst the domestic elite was Schalke, where he spent four years between 2003 and 2007, winning the Ligapokal in 2005 and coming within two points of the 2006/07 Meisterschale as Stuttgart eventually triumphed. His displays in Gelsenkirchen attracted the attention of Bayern Munich, and it was there where he enjoyed his best spell in terms of silverware, winning two league titles and two DFB Cups alongside another Ligapokal.
While never a guaranteed starter, his creative flair and versatility made him a high-end squad player, and he was always ready to step in when needed. The attacker even started the 2010 UEFA Champions League final, which the Bavarians ultimately lost 2-0 to Inter Milan, before moving on to Real Madrid in 2011.
Six years later, the Gelsenkirchen native returned to Germany for his swansong, contributing to Darmstadt’s one season in the Bundesliga before an immediate return to the second tier. All in all, he made 192 appearances in the division, scoring 15 times.
Bundesliga clubs: Kaiserslautern (2003-06, 2018), Schalke (2006-10), Eintracht Frankfurt (2010-11), Augsburg (2013-2017)
Bundesliga appearances: 351 (67 goals)
More offensively-minded than his twin, Halil was snapped up by Kaiserslautern during the same summer as Hamit’s move to Die Königsblauen. He helped them narrowly avoid relegation in 2003/04 and 2004/05 and, while Die roten Teufel dropped back down to the second tier in 2005/06, the Turkish striker enjoyed his best-ever Bundesliga campaign, netting 20 goals in 34 fixtures.
That was enough to attract the attention of Schalke, and the Altıntops were reunited at the VELTINS-Arena for one campaign before Hamit’s Bayern switch. That was one of four seasons he spent in the Ruhr before 24 months at Eintracht Frankfurt until Die Adler were relegated. Like his brother, who featured for Galatasaray, Halil had a stint in the Turkish Super Lig with Trabzonspor prior to his return to Germany and Augsburg, where he netted 20 times in 115 top-flight fixtures.
He hung up his boots having made 351 Bundesliga appearances, more than any of his compatriots across the competition’s history. That number was also higher than all but five non-Germans, which underlines his longevity and reliability. With 67 strikes, he was handy in front of goal, too, and he still has a link to German football, looking after Bayern’s next generation in his academy manager role at the club.
Position: Central midfielder
Bundesliga clubs: Hamburg (2013-14), Bayer Leverkusen (2014-17)
Bundesliga appearances: 111 (28 goals)
Çalhanoğlu may not have spent as long in the Bundesliga as the Altintops, but he certainly left a big impression. He made his senior debut while on the books of Karlsruhe, featuring in the second and third tiers before earning a move to Hamburg in 2013. He was soon making waves, scoring 11 goals in 32 matches in his one and only season at the club as Leverkusen convinced him to change employers once more 12 months later.
More goals arrived while with Die Werkself – 17, to be exact – across two-and-a-half seasons before he left for AC Milan in summer 2017.
Brief though his top-flight spell may have been, it is certianly worthy of recognition, especially his ability from set-pieces. Numerous Bundesliga goalkeepers were unable to prevent Çalhanoğlu free-kicks from ending up in the back of the net, while his dead-ball effort against Borussia Dortmund for HSV in 2014, which flew into the top corner from 41 yards, is perennially included in YouTube goal compilations.
Watch: Çalhanoğlu's best free-kicks
Position: Central midfielder
Bundesliga clubs: Borussia Dortmund (2008-11, 2013-18), Werder Bremen (2018-2020)
Bundesliga appearances: 259 (22 goals)
Şahin was a record-breaker from the first moment he stepped out in Dortmund’s famous black and yellow shirt, becoming the youngest player in Bundesliga history at the age of 16 years and 334 days – since surpassed by Youssoufa Moukoko – when he started the 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg on the opening day of the 2005/06 term. Until Florian Wirtz scored in June 2020 versus Bayern for Leverkusen, Şahin was also the youngest-ever Bundesliga goalscorer when he struck against Nuremberg a few months after his debut.
The young midfielder’s star continued to rise, and he arguably hit his peak in the 2010/11 season, winning Player of the Season as he struck six times during Dortmund’s title-winning term under Jürgen Klopp. A move to Real Madrid beckoned, ending six impressive years at Signal Iduna Park.
Watch: The Nuri Şahin story
Unfortunately, his time in the Spanish capital didn’t work out as planned and, after a one-year Liverpool loan, he returned to Dortmund in January 2013, initially on a temporary basis. He signed permanently 18 months later after nailing down a spot in the starting XI but, just as in Madrid, injuries were a thorn in Şahin’s development.
He still managed a further 73 league run-outs before moving on to Bremen in 2018, where he played 36 times. That took his total Bundesliga tally to 259 - a very respectable haul - and that 2010/11 term will not be forgotten by many BVB fans in a hurry.
Position: Attacking midfielder
Bundesliga clubs: Bochum (1997-01), Bayer Leverkusen (2001-04), Hertha Berlin (2004-07), VfB Stuttgart (2007-10)
Bundesliga appearances: 249 (32 goals)
Another player to come through the ranks at Wattenscheid 09, Baştürk first made himself known to a wider audience at Bochum, where he spent four seasons including three in the Bundesliga. As an attacking midfielder, he was expected to contribute heavily to his team’s creative output, but he shouldered the responsibility well and was soon on his way to Leverkusen in 2001.
The 2001/02 "Neverkusen" side has since gone down in folklore, as much for their brilliant attacking play as for missing out on a potentially historic treble. Baştürk was a key component of that team that fell agonisingly short on all three fronts, finishing second in the Bundesliga table behind Dortmund before losing the DFB Cup and Champions League finals to Schalke and Real Madrid respectively. In another close shave with silverware, he was also part of the Türkiye team that secured third place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Two more seasons followed in Leverkusen, and in 2004, Bastürk became Hertha Berlin’s latest recruit. He was a popular figure in the German capital, even being named Die Alte Dame’s 2005/06 Player of the Season, before joing Stuttgart for three seasons in 2007. Despite his obvious talent, the now 44-year-old didn’t pick up the medals his career deserved, but he can be content with 249 Bundesliga appearances and a richly deserved place on this list.
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