Hoffenheim midfielder Kerem Demirbay's journey to the top was not without its setbacks.
Hoffenheim midfielder Kerem Demirbay's journey to the top was not without its setbacks.

From fourth division to Europa League: Kerem Demirbay's remarkable ascension

Hoffenheim's Kerem Demirbay will enjoy a homecoming of sorts in Thursday's UEFA Europa League Group C trip to Istanbul Basaksehir.

"I have family in Istanbul and in other places in Turkey," said the 24-year-old, who choose to represent the country of his birth, Germany, over his father's homeland. "Over 20 people will be coming to watch me. Even my own family are out there on holiday. I won't be alone."

It's a family reunion that Demirbay could only have dreamed of two years ago...

In 2015/16, Demirbay finished 14th in Bundesliga 2 with Fortuna Düsseldorf, his ten goals making up almost a third of their total as relegation was avoided by just three points. A year before, he only narrowly missed out on promotion to the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern after having already graced Germany's greatest stage three times with Hamburg. There, he was primarily involved in the club's reserve team, gaining his stripes with three goals in five fourth-division appearances only a few years ago, in 2014/15.

It was a case of going one step back to take several forward for a player who appeared destined for fame and fortune when he joined Borussia Dortmund's youth academy from Wattenscheid in 2011. BVB were not keen to see him leave again two years later with their coach at the time Jürgen Klopp telling the young attacking midfielder of his bright prospects. Demirbay nevertheless had his own plan, and that came to fruition when he made history with Hoffenheim in 2016/17.

His late goal earned the Sinsheim side the point they needed against Cologne in April to secure European football for the first time in the club's history.

Watch: Patrick Owomoyela meets Kerem Demirbay

Germany or Turkey? That was the next question. Despite playing in two friendlies for Turkey's Under-21s four years earlier, Demirbay opted for the 2014 World Cup champions.

He made his first appearance for Die Mannschaft as a substitute in a friendly against Denmark in early June 2017. Just a few weeks later he truly announced his arrival on the international stage with his maiden international goal on his first start for his country - a now trademark thumping effort from outside the box - as Germany beat Cameroon 3-1 at the Confederations Cup en route to lifting the title.

It is little wonder Turkey were so keen to claim him as their own. The Demirbay clan should be very proud indeed.

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