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Premier League Cult Icons: Tugay Kerimoğlu

They don't make players like Tugay anymore.

Nowadays, an individual of his calibre would have been picked off by a bigger club. Not that the luxury of having Tugay for eight years is lost on Blackburn Rovers supporters, who cherished every single minute that the midfield genius graced the pitch.

Tugay was a maverick, an artist who would wave his brush and conjure moments of obscene brilliance.

He may have only scored 13 goals for Blackburn but each one was spectacular in their own right; of the 13, only one goal was scored from inside the penalty area.

Even at the ripe old age of 38, Tugay was still dictating football matches. There was a tinge of sadness that we were never able to witness his craft in the Premier League at an earlier stage of his career, although Mark Hughes argued he would be "playing in a Barcelona shirt" if he was.

Even Sir Alex Ferguson said Tugay would have been an ideal fit at Manchester United if he were 10 years younger.

Tugay Kerimoğlu In Profile

Place of Birth

Istanbul, Turkey

Position

Midfielder

Premier League club(s)

Blackburn Rovers

Premier League appearances

233

Premier League goals

10

Premier League assists

10

International caps

94

Other notable clubs

Galatasaray, Rangers

Journey into football

Born in Istanbul, Tugay started his career in the northern coastal city of Trabzon with Trabzonspor.

With the club until the age of 13, Tugay was picked up by Turkish giants Galatasaray and emerged through the ranks before making his first-team bow in 1987.

They won the Turkish Super Lig title that year and wouldn’t win another until Tugay was made club captain in 1992, which made him the youngest captain in Galatasaray history at 22.

Four more league titles would follow before Rangers acquired his services in January 2000, ending a 16-year association with Galatasaray.

Graeme Souness, who had become acquainted with Tugay during a brief stint with Galatasaray in the mid-90s, then grasped an opportunity to purchase him in the summer of 2001 for Blackburn.

Style of play

He was the orchestrator that could land it on a sixpence from anywhere on the pitch.

Tugay’s phenomenal vision and passing precision would stretch opposition defences and create a raft of chances. Recall his first away league start against Ipswich Town in 2001; lingering on the halfway line, Tugay hoisted a searching pass into Matt Jansen’s path, generating enough backspin to lure Matteo Sereni out of his goal and enable Jansen to lob the goalkeeper.

The midfield maestro would make the beautiful game appear effortless, though he wasn’t afraid of getting stuck into a challenge and retrieving possession.

He was the master of many things; not least the slow walk-off if substituted late in a match.

Blackburn Rovers legacy

Whisper Tugay’s name around the terraces at Ewood Park and Blackburn fans will recite a catalogue of wonderful memories.

Rovers supporters cherished the unswerving dedication that accompanied his outrageous talent. His all-action style endeared him to the Blackburn faithful and the fact he had the odd sensational goal in his locker only heightened their adulation.

You only have to glance at his final appearance in a Blackburn shirt to appreciate the lasting impact of his eight-year stint in Lancashire; all four corners of the ground delivering a heart-felt standing ovation that even brought a tear to Tugay’s eye.

Biggest career achievement

Tugay enjoyed a trophy-laden stint with Galatasaray, winning six league titles, four Turkish Cups and five Turkish Super Cups.

He was a member of the Rangers side that completed a domestic double in 2000 and was an integral figure in Blackburn’s 2002 League Cup success, despite being suspended for the final.

Though he was sent home and ostracised by the Turkish national team after throwing his shinpads at coach Mustafa Denizli at Euro 2000, Tugay was the recipient of a bronze medal at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea.

Did you know?

On the topic of his shinpad incident at Euro 2000, it very nearly jeopardised his move to Blackburn from Rangers in 2001.

Overseas players were expected to have played at least 75 per cent of internationals over the preceding two years to qualify for a work permit, a requirement that Tugay failed to meet having been omitted from the Turkish national team.

It meant Tugay was initially refused a work permit from the Home Office before Souness was forced to plead special circumstances. A month later, Blackburn's appeal was successful, with Tugay granted his work visa and the £1.3m deal from Rangers was completed.

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