Manchester City teenager Enes Unal has become one of the best strikers in the Eredivisie, writes Adam Bate.
“Everyone puts him on a pedestal,” said FC Twente coach Rene Hake earlier this season. “But we like him with his feet on the ground.” That’s getting more and more impractical when the player in question is Enes Unal, Manchester City loanee and the team’s top scorer.
The 19-year-old striker grabbed the attention again at the weekend, lashing the ball into the net off the underside of the bar to double Twente’s lead in their win over Willem II. It was his 12th Eredivisie goal of the season. Only three players in the country have scored more.
Unal has always had the knack. He boasted a phenomenal scoring record in junior football and became the youngest ever player to score in the Turkish Super Lig when he came off the bench to score an equaliser for Bursaspor against Galatasaray while aged just 16.
He had already been capped by Turkey by the time that Manchester City paid £2m for his services in the summer of 2015, and there are now signs that the poacher is adding other aspects to his game – as his perfect hat-trick inside 16 minutes at Groningen would suggest.
Naturally, he is a huge fan favourite at Twente. But as Bjorn Weustink of Vak-P, one of the club’s official supporters’ groups, explains, the player has impressed with his attitude as well as his ability. “Unal is one of the best strikers in our Eredivisie,” Weustink told Sky Sports.
“He scored a lot of goals and many of them important goals too.” Indeed, his goals have already accounted for 10 points for Twente this season. “Even when he does not score,” added Weustink. “He is important for the team. You can see the joy when he plays.
“Unal is a very hard worker and all the defenders in Holland fear him. His technique is brilliant and together with his good mentality he can probably play at a higher level. For sure, we all know that he will leave Twente soon.”
What happens then is the big question as far as Manchester City are concerned. With the arrival of Gabriel Jesus, and Kelechi Iheanacho also waiting patiently for a chance, first-team opportunities are at a premium and work-permit issues could yet complicate the situation.
But any question marks over Unal’s quality are being answered. Upon his arrival, the step up from Turkey to playing alongside some of Europe’s best players was a difficult one. Unal admits he felt like throwing up after his first training session, such was the tempo.
But he has since improved his strength and stamina to the point where he looks at home leading the line and could yet do justice the ‘Zlatan’ nickname that Joe Hart gave him on the training ground. Appropriately enough, Zlatan Ibrahimovic just happens to be Unal’s idol.
It was in the Eredivisie that the Swede began to make a name for himself and this weekend Unal will get the chance to show what he can do against Ibrahimovic’s old club Ajax. Having already found the net against PSV this season, he might well fancy his chances.
And that really would make Pep Guardiola take notice. The former Barcelona boss might not be too enamoured by the prospect of dealing with another Ibrahimovic, but if Unal can keep his feet on the ground as Hake hopes, perhaps there could yet be a role for him at City.