UEFA.com feature on Beşiktaş star Oğuzhan Özyakup

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Updated: September 26, 2016

Beşiktaş’ Oğuzhan Özyakup on Wenger, Aybaba, Bilić, Güneş

Oğuzhan Özyakup was key to inspiring Beşiktaş back into the UEFA Champions League and he discusses the four contrasting coaches he has played under at club level.

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Oğuzhan Özyakup only turned 24 on Friday but he has already built up a formidable range of experiences.

Born and brought up in the Netherlands, the skilful Turkish international midfielder was developed at AZ Alkmaar before moving to Arsenal just before his 16th birthday. In 2012 Özyakup switched to Beşiktaş, playing under the hugely experienced Samet Aybaba and former Croatia coach Slaven Bilić before Şenol Güneş – mastermind of Turkey’s 2002 FIFA World Cup third place – took over in summer 2015.

Özyakup hit top form last season as Beşiktaş won their first league title in seven years and on Wednesday they welcome Dynamo Kyiv to Istanbul having earned a last-gasp point at Benfica in their UEFA Champions League Group B opener. Özyakup spoke to UEFA.com about how each of his four senior club coaches have influenced his career.

On Arsène Wenger …

I was brought up in the youth team [at Arsenal] and in my final year I almost always trained with the first team. I played in two cup games and got into the squad for Premier League and Champions League games.

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Arsène Wenger brought Özyakup up to the Arsenal first team in 2011 (©AFP/Getty Images)

Arsenal have a very strong academy, and watching and taking part in first-team training would be beneficial for any player.

They have world stars there, and seeing them train every day and seeing the extra things they do gives you an insight into what you should be doing. As for Arsène Wenger, who has been at the club for 20-odd years, to be able to come to training with the same motivation every day says a lot about him.

On Samet Aybaba …

Samet Aybaba was tasked with the difficult job of coaching Besiktas during their "FEDA" season. (©Getty Images)

Samet Aybaba was tasked with the difficult job of coaching Beşiktaş during their 2012/13 “FEDA” season. (©Getty Images)

My coach during my first year at Beşiktaş, he helped me a lot in my personal life. Of course he played me, but he also helped me a lot off the pitch as it was my first time in Istanbul and everything was new to me.

I had to adapt to the environment here, as I was born in Amsterdam and had lived in London but I’d never been to Istanbul. I’d only visited relatives in Trabzon and Ankara. I hadn’t even stayed in Istanbul for two weeks, and now I had to live there. So he helped me a lot in my personal life.

slaven-bilic

Between 2013 and 2015 Slaven Bilić was Özyakup’s coach at Beşiktaş. (©Getty Images)

On Slaven Bilić …

In my second and third year we had Slaven Bilić. He’s a very warm person – some coaches are distant while still giving you the confidence and good feeling you need, but Bilić was closer to his players than some other coaches, and that gives players a different type of confidence. He was always open to jokes, and every player was comfortable with him.

That’s because he was friends with every one of his players, and that’s important for some players and gives them more confidence.

On Şenol Güneş …

©AFP/Getty Images

Under Şenol Güneş Özyakup became a leader on and off the pitch which led to the club’s first chamiponship since 2009. ©AFP/Getty Images

With the arrival of Şenol Güneş, I made a real step up in my performances – he showed the confidence he had in me and that boosted my own confidence.

For that reason I worked very hard. I already had a good feeling about last season during pre-season, and I would say in every match and every training session how important it was for us to win the next game. I also believe the confidence Şenol Güneş showed in me helped me mature as a player and person. I started taking more responsibility and approaching things from a different angle.

As I said, for me the most important period was last year: becoming champions is a very nice feeling, we worked really hard as a team and I personally worked really hard. I gave everything I had throughout the season to show my coach he’d made the right decision.


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Kaan Bayazit

Editor-in-chief at Beşiktaş International
Freelance sports writer specialized in Turkish football and Beşiktaş. Co-host of the Black Eagles podcast. Frequently featured in World Soccer Digest Japan and many other international media outlets. Following Turkish football for close to two decades. Proud father to Aedin.
Kaan Bayazit
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