If you click this link to beIN Sports Turkey, you’ll find a short video from back in early December of Chelsea loan liaisons/scouts Eddie Newton and Christophe Lollichon watching a game in the town of Izmir in the Turkish second division between Altinordu and Gaziantepspor. The player they were apparently keeping a keen eye on was Altinordu’s 17-year-old goalkeeping prodigy, Berke Özer, who’s been compared favorably (both in skill and accomplishments) with the now practically wizened old veteran 19-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma at AC Milan.
While Özer has yet to make his international debut, he has already been called up by Turkey (last summer for a friendly) and has featured a few times for his club team as well. He’s by no means a starter, but if reports in the Turkish media over the past few months are to be believed, Newton and Lollichon were quite impressed. They weren’t alone in this regard — reports of Manchester City and Juventus showing interested abound as well — but if Altinordu’s manager, Huseyin Eroğlu is to be believed, the Chelsea duo were willing to go as far as to set up a partnership between the two clubs in order to land the lanky goalkeeper.
Eroğlu was back on beIN this weekend — I don’t speak Turkish but he says “Berke” and “Chelsea” a lot — after his side’s 0-0 draw at Giresunspor (which kept them firmly in the promotion playoff race), talking up Chelsea’s intentions and of course his own club’s firm beliefs.
“Chelsea have been sending scouts to Izmir for Berke Ozer, and to take a look at our project. At our last meeting they said they could send us players on loan. But they seemed shocked when I said we had to politely decline.
”We are not interested in training up other clubs’ players. Our mission is clear. Altinordu will develop local youths to create a complete academy-developed squad.”
-Huseyin Eroğlu; source: beIN Sports via The Sun
Altinordu are quite proud of their academy. They recently had a visit from UEFA Executive Committee member John Delaney, even, to show off their investment in local grassroots talent (of which Özer is the most shining example thus far).
So when the reporter asked whether Altinordu would look to bring in players on loan should they get promoted to the Super Lig this season, the manager’s response was an emphatic no. Good for them, though it’s unclear how they would react should anyone actually make a serious move for this Berke Özer kid.
Chelsea, like all top academies, are always interested in the latest and greatest undiscovered talent, always looking for the next Courtois, the next Christensen, the next diamond in the rough. Most turn out more Matej Delac or Jamal Blackman than Thibaut Courtois of course, but that’s the nature of this endeavor. If Berke (or any other young goalkeeper) were to join, he’d add his name to the list of several excellent prospects already in the system, including Marcin Bulka, Karlo Ziger, Nicolas Tie, Bradley Collins, Nathan Baxter, and so on, but there’s never not going to be competition at one of the best academies in football.