Leverkusen - Complete with luminous boots and his new number 10 shirt, Hakan Calhanoglu went through his paces for the first time with Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Eyes on Europe
Training over, he happily posed for snaps with Werkself fans who, like the management, hope the 20-year-old supertalent freshly arrived from Hamburger SV can help Bayer 04 to another sustained assault on the top of the standings in the season ahead and beyond.
"He made a very positive impression on me. Hakan comes across as extremely motivated and we're expecting great things of him,” said new Bayer coach Roger Schmidt. Managing director Michael Schade was similarly enthusiastic about the arrival of the Mannheim-born Turkey international, saying, "I'm proud of this transfer. We've made good on our word and really strengthened the squad.”
Calhanoglu will not have all too long to wait to start repaying that show of confidence, with Bayer booked for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League play-off round on 19/20 August and desperate to make the group phase of Europe's premier club competition for the second year running. "Helping get Leverkusen into the Champions League and up around the top of the Bundesliga is going to be a big challenge for me,” the young shooting star acknowledged after news of his transfer broke.
Leverkusen's missing piece?
The move itself was a somewhat protracted affair, but Calhanoglu is appreciative of the year he spent at Hamburg, where he "had a very good time. At Leverkusen now, I have the opportunity to take the next step up.” The set-piece specialist joined HSV from Karlsruher SC last summer and swiftly adapted to life in the top flight, displaying a maturity beyond his years and playing a leading role in saving the Bundesliga's only ever-present club from relegation at the last.
Tough as it was to lose their new midfield star, Hamburg benefited from the transfer as well, with the funds from the deal going towards securing the services of top scorer Pierre-Michel Lasogga, who was due to return to Hertha Berlin at the end of a loan spell.
Calhanoglu's own return to Hamburg with Bayer is earmarked for Matchday 10. By then, the new midfield string-puller hopes to have played his way into the hearts of the Leverkusen fans, not to mention the group stage of the Champions League. His first outing at any rate offered a small taste of what all concerned are hoping is yet to come, as he sank a debut goal in a 6-0 friendly win against Belgium's Lierse SK.