The European U21 Championship kicked off on Wednesday night, with Emre Can impressing in midfield as Germany U21s drew 1-1 against Serbia U21s.
After Germany U21s coach Horst Hrubesch revealed on Wednesday that Liverpool’s Emre Can was set to take up a midfield role for Brendan Rodgers in 2015/16, it was no surprise to see the 21-year-old deployed there as the tournament favourites drew with Serbia 1-1.
“I’ve just been to Liverpool, there we were told that Emre will soon assume Gerrard’s role in midfield,” Hrubesch said.
“Emre definitely has leadership qualities.”
While regular U21s captain Kevin Volland wore the armband, Can showed true leadership in a midfield role for Hrubesch’s side, scoring Germany’s equaliser.
Can’s strike, a precise finish from the edge of the Serbian penalty area on 17 minutes, marked a performance full of sheer quality from the former Bayer Leverkusen man.
Turning Darko Brasanac inside out, Can placed a well-weighted shot through the Serbia defence and beyond Marko Dmitrovic.
This was something of a departure for Can, who performed as Germany’s defensive midfielder for the first 45 minutes.
In the second half, Hrubesch introduced Joshua Kimmich into defensive midfield, allowing Can more license to drive forward and trouble Dmitrovic’s goal in a box-to-box role.
This was, however, marred by the 69th-minute dismissal of Christian Gunter, with the left-back receiving a second yellow card for simulation.
As a result centre-forward Philipp Hofmann was substituted, with Volland moving into the focal attacking role; Can was thus restricted to more defensive duties as Germany looked to close off any chance of a Serbian victory.
Nevertheless, the 21-year-old made several dangerous forays towards the Serbia box, operating as Germany’s primary central attacking midfielder on Hofmann’s withdrawal.
Think Emre Can was the best Germany player on the field today. Could have used a bit of help in the first half. #GERSRB
— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) June 17, 2015
Speaking of a potential midfield role for Liverpool ahead of the game, Can said: “I’ll be playing my best position soon, which is central midfield.
“The coach knows about it and sees it the same way I do.”
With Steven Gerrard leaving for LA Galaxy this summer, there is an important role to be filled in the Liverpool midfield, and on this showing Can seems well-suited to take it on.
Hrubesch’s vague nod towards “Gerrard’s role” could have been its 2008/09 or 2014/15 incarnation, but it is clear from the second half in Prague that it is in the probing advanced role of a younger Gerrard that he is best suited.
Why Rodgers refrained from deploying him there towards the end of the season remains a baffling one—Can struggled at right-back while Liverpool’s midfield limped to a miserable sixth-placed finish.
2015/16 could be a defining season for Can at Liverpool.
- Read more: Emre Can 2014/15 Season Review