Ozan Kabak had only made a handful of appearances in professional football when he joined VfB Stuttgart in the winter transfer window, but is now already a first-team regular in Markus Weinzierl's side. So who exactly is this new defensive linchpin?
Club: VfB Stuttgart
Country: Turkey (50 youth international caps)
The Ankara native joined the Galatasaray youth academy at the age of 11 and went on to make 14 first-team appearances for the club, 13 of which came in the 2018/19 season prior to his move to Stuttgart. Thrust into Markus Weinzierl's side on Matchday 19, he has played the full 90 minutes in every game since, making him the youngest first-team regular in the league alongside Jadon Sancho (both were born on 25 March 2000). The 19-year-old averages an interception every eight minutes and already has three goals from centre-back – only Mario Gomez (6) and Steven Zuber (5) have outscored him for Stuttgart this season, while only Willi Orban and Kaan Ayhan – with four each – have scored more goals among Bundesliga defenders this term. Kabak has won 50 youth caps for Turkey and although he is yet to make his senior international debut, he was called up to the squad for the first time in March 2019.
Watch: Kabak on target for VfB on Matchday 28 against Nuremberg
Plays a bit like: Sergio Ramos
Kabak reads the game well and is quick to sense any danger. He has good anticipation and a deceptively quick turn of pace, to say nothing of the aforementioned goal threat. The centre-back also has the same bite as the Real Madrid captain, committing 15 fouls in his first 11 games in Stuttgart colours.
Did you know?
Kabak's brace in the 5-1 win over Hannover on Matchday 24 saw him overtake Hakan Calhanoglu as the youngest Turkish player to score twice in a Bundesliga game (aged 18 years, 11 months and seven days). Only Timo Werner and Horst Köppel were younger in scoring their first doubles for Stuttgart.
What they're saying
"It's incredible how worldy-wise he is for his age. It's astonishing. I see him every day and am amazed at how he mature he is. He wants to know everything; he wants to learn German right away and understand everything. That's the kind of attitude we need. He's already a role model, despite his age." – Stuttgart sporting director Thomas Hitzlsperger
"He's got a lot of potential. He's still very young. You could see in the game against Hannover that he's got a lot of talent. He's very laid back, very calm and doesn't let the club's current situation [in a relegation fight] bother him. He's definitely got the talent to play at a big club." - Stuttgart midfielder Gonzalo Castro
"He's got a good head on his shoulders, he's not the kind of person to do crazy stuff. His greatest strength is how uncompromising he is in tackles." – Stuttgart captain Christian Gentner
“There are a lot of players that I admire, such as [Virgil] van Dijk, [Raphael] Varane, and Sergio Ramos. I take a look at a lot of players, but I don’t have a specific role model because I am trying to develop my own style.” – Kabak