After playing for seven different clubs at various levels of German football since the start of his career, Kerem Demirbay has finally found his feet at the heart of Hoffenheim's midfield, drawing attention from the Bundesliga and beyond.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at TSG's versatile No.10…
Position: Central midfielder
Country: Germany (played for Turkey up to U21 level)
The former Schalke and Borussia Dortmund youth player has had a curious route to the top, enjoying stints with Wattenscheid, Kaiserslautern, Hamburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf before emerging as one of the Bundesliga's outstanding midfield talents under Julian Nagelsmann. Boasting strength, vision and a magic left foot, the 25-year-old is nearly back to his best after an injury-hit 2018, which saw him restricted to just five Bundesliga outings between January and late September.
Comfortable as a ball-winning No.6 or in a more advanced playmaker role, Demirbay made a telling contribution against VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 9, coming on for Florian Grillitsch just before half-time with the scoreline 0-0 and inspiring Hoffenheim to a 4-0 home win. In his five outings in 2018/19, he has covered an impressive 7.5 miles per game, won 53 per cent of his challenges and completed 83 per cent of his passes.
In a breakout 2016/17, Demirbay was the midfield dynamo powering TSG's charge to fourth place and a spot in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, setting up 10 goals and scoring six more – including a late equaliser against Cologne that secured the club a historic first European qualification. His eye-catching performances earned him a first call-up to the Germany squad in June 2017, and the following month he joined Die Mannschaft for their successful campaign at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, netting a spectacular first international goal in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon.
Watch: Owo meets... former Dortmund teammate Demirbay
Plays a bit like: Nuri Sahin
Demirbay's style is reminiscent of another Dortmund youth product with Turkish origins, Nuri Sahin, who went on to represent the Crescent-Stars at senior level rather than his native Germany. Like his Werder Bremen counterpart, Demirbay is capable of befuddling opposition defenders and goalkeepers with his incisive left boot, and is renowned for his pinpoint passing ability. In a demanding system such as Nagelsmann's 3-5-2, which requires considerable tactical discipline, the spirited midfielder is just as effective at breaking down opponents' moves as he is building his own team's attacks.
Did you know?
Demirbay was born in the town of Herten in Germany's Ruhr district, but played youth football for Turkey between 2011 and 2013. Without a Turkish passport at the time, he was unable to represent the country of his parents at senior level, although he did accept a call-up from national coach Fatih Terim in 2017 before switching his allegiance to Germany. Subsequent injuries have limited him to just two appearances for Die Mannschaft. Speaking of his parents, Demirbay has his mother's name Tülay tattooed on his forearm - and kisses it every time he scores a goal.
What they're saying
"When I scored that goal, it was an indescribable feeling. To be honest, I knew it was going in before I got the ball. It was an incredible moment." – Demirbay on scoring the goal against Cologne that qualified Hoffenheim for Europe in 2016/17.
"This emphasises our desire to continue the path we're on, which has borne fruit in recent years. Kerem's development has been exceptional, from all angles." – TSG sporting director Alexander Rosen in May 2018, when Demirbay extended his contract until June 2022.
"I've promised my friends and family I'm going to make the Champions League anthem the ring-tone on my phone!" – Demirbay on TSG becoming European regulars.