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Why Emre Can left Liverpool and how Borussia Dortmund midfielder has fared since Anfield exit

Emre Can (25) of Germany in action against Rodri (16) Defensive Midfield of Spain  during the UEFA EURO 2024 quarter-final match between Spain and Germany at Stuttgart Arena on July 05, 2024 in Stuttgart, Germany.
-Credit: (Image: Gokhan Balci/Anadolu via Getty Images)


Emre Can was among the more exciting talents Jurgen Klopp inherited when he joined Liverpool. Signed the summer previously from Bayer Leverkusen after the Reds triggered his release clause, the midfielder was touted as a hope for the future in a pretty poor side — but by the summer of 2018, he was leaving on a free transfer.

Why did he leave? It's a reasonable question to ask, given the status he had earned under Klopp as an important player when fit, and the clear upward trajectory of the club. He departed in the immediate aftermath of a Champions League final against Real Madrid, after all.

Can had been injured in the lead-up to that game, and could only play the final few minutes off the bench, in what proved to be his Liverpool farewell. He traded the Premier League for Serie A and Juventus, although that did not pan out well for him.

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There had been discussions about keeping him at Liverpool. Klopp had said in 2017 that only a few "little details" needed to be resolved (Independent).

But Can and his representatives insisted on including a release clause (Mirror). That's a practice to which Liverpool has long been opposed, with sporting director at the time Michael Edwards refusing to bow to this demand.

Edwards is now back at FSG with oversight over Liverpool, so we can expect that policy to continue. It's worked well for the Reds, who would have been particularly relieved to have avoided setting that precedent while they succeeded in keeping the core of Klopp's side together throughout their collective peak years.

As for Can, there was near-instant regret, as things didn't pan out at all well at Juventus. He lasted just 18 months, and was way down the pecking order for much of that time, having been excluded from the Champions League squad at the start of his second campaign.

It's little wonder, then, that he returned to Germany in January 2020, signing for Borussia Dortmund. But to his credit, he's got firmly back on track there, rising through the ranks to become the captain and a very important player.

Emre Can (L) of Dortmund in action during the UEFA Champions League Final between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium in London, United Kingdom on June 1, 2024.
Emre Can has revived his career at Borussia Dortmund. -Credit:Ibrahim Ezzat/Anadolu via Getty Images

Shortly after another Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid, he even earned a Germany call-up for Euro 2024. That only came after injuries opened up a space, and yet he found himself starting the recent quarter-final defeat to Spain.

He didn't look at all out of place, either. Played in various positions at Liverpool including center-back, he has found his home at the base of the midfield, and is one of the top operators in Europe in this role.

However, trophies continue to prove relatively elusive. He won nothing in his time at Liverpool, although the Reds claimed the Champions League and Premier League in successive seasons after he departed, and his time at Borussia Dortmund has yielded a single DFB-Pokal trophy.

His most silverware-laden haul was an early stint at Bayern Munich, but he hardly featured for the first team. He also won Serie A with Juventus, but again in a fringe role.

Liverpool.com says: It's a real "what if" scenario. Liverpool went on to sign Fabinho, so it won't have any regrets, but things might well have been very different if Can stayed.

Plausibly, he could still have been a starting midfielder now. Certainly, Liverpool seems to lack a player of his profile in the midfield, signing veteran Wataru Endo as something of a stopgap in that role last summer.

But there's no longer any hard feelings. It's nice to see Can doing well for himself.