Anyone who happened to watch Bayer Leverkusen’s UEFA Champions League qualifying triumph against Roman giants Lazio this week may quite easily be able to answer the question posed in my title.
However if you happened to miss the German’s aggregate 3-1 win to reach the Group Stage proper of Europe’s premier club competition, or are not a frequent follower of the Bundesliga, the query may not be as simple to respond to.
Admittedly, the name, the man, the player Hakan Çalhanoğlu is relatively new to me, too. But since I caught on to the exploits of the 21-year-old Turkish tyro, I’ve been excited to soak in as much action involving the former Karlsruher and Hamburg attacking midfielder as my beIN Sports subscription will allow.
You see, in the world of football the term ‘free-kick’ specialist can be bandied about somewhat loosely. Strike a couple of decent efforts on goal from the set-piece and all of a sudden what ought to be a title reserved for the few true artists of the dead ball situation seems to stick.
But any pundit, any journalist that uses the above glowing description for Çalhanoğlu is well within their rights, for this is a kid with true craft and creativity in his right boot.
Last weekend on matchday 2 of this season’s Bundesliga, Çalhanoğlu — who in fact scored for Turkey U-20 against the Young Socceroos in Trabzon at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup — netted his first stunning set-piece of the season. The goal from 25-yards ensured Roger Schmidt’s side down rivals Hannover 96 1-0 away from home, keeping Leverkusen’s perfect start to the campaign intact.
From an individual perspective though, Çalhanoğlu’s stunner last round could well be the first of many more often thunderous, curling, swerving, successfully converted set-pieces for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany’s top flight and in continental competition throughout 2015-16.
So, while Australian football fans should keep an eye on Leverkusen’s Champions League fortunes this season due to Robbie Kruse’s place in their squad, they should also be well served by placing their other one on Çalhanoğlu — the gifted German-born Turkish international who time and time again leaves goalkeepers wondering why they even bothered to set up a wall.