Nihat Kahveci bids a silent farewell to a prolific career

Nihat Kahveci bids a silent farewell to a prolific career

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Nihat Kahveci bids a silent farewell to a prolific career

Nihat Kahveci won many fans with his memorable performances at Villarreal and especially Real Sociedad. Kahveci’s return to Beşiktaş, his boyhood club, was a sorry ending to a successful career, the former Turkish international forward admits.

Nihat Kahveci has hung up his boots quietly in stark contrast to his glorious career.

The Turkish forward issued a statement to Anatolia news agency on Jan. 17, saying that he was “ending his career as a professional footballer.”

It was not an unexpected decision, but the timing was odd, and the deafening silence after the retirement of the former Beşiktaş, Villarreal and Real Sociedad man was nothing less than heartbreaking.

“Every good story has a beginning and an end,” he told NTV Spor the same day. “I had some beautiful moments. I had great joy when I was healthy and playing well.”

The way he underlined the importance of “health” was important, since Nihat’s career was plagued by long injury layoffs. But at his best, Nihat was as good as anybody out there. With a solid fundamental and a scorching shooting ability, Nihat was the most prolific Turkish goalscorer of his generation. From his unforgettable two-goal performance in the dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over the Czech Republic at Euro 2008 to his marvelous La Liga years, he had a fantastic career that went all wrong in the last two years.

Nihat quickly showed his potential as an up-and-coming attacker after Welsh coach John Toshack first gave him a chance at Beşiktaş in 1998. Although he was usually used as a right-winger instead of being deployed in his natural central forward spot, he tallied 27 goals in 118 games, earning him the “wonder kid” tag.

The forward would have to go to Spain to prove his potential. Toshack, as Real Sociedad’s boss, lured the then-22-year-old forward during the 2001-2002 season to help the club’s cause while it was battling relegation. His first season was hardly more than an adaptation period for the tough Spanish top-flight.

However, during the 2002-2003 La Liga season, he tied Real Madrid’s Ronaldo “il fenomeno” for second in the goal-scoring charts with 23 goals, finishing behind only Deportivo La Coruna’s Dutch marksman, Roy Makaay. He was playing for Real Sociedad then and his prolific partnership with Darko Kovacevic gave the team its most successful performance in decades as his 58 goals in 133 games for Real Sociedad were enough to turn Nihat into a San Sebastian icon.

His 2006 transfer to Villarreal, which had advanced to the Champions League semifinals the previous year, seemed a move in the right direction but several injuries to both his knees held him back. He was unable to score a goal in the first and the last of his three years at the Yellow Submarine, but the one in the middle, the 2007-2008 campaign, was a success. With 23 goals in all competitions, Nihat made his impact with the team, which was capped with a memorable performance at Euro 2008 with Turkey.

Unsuccessful return

If injuries were the biggest thorn in his side, a 3.5 million-euro transfer to his boyhood club was the second. Nihat scored just three goals over two seasons at Beşiktaş and failed to win over the fans again.

“When you get old, you can’t do anything you want to on the pitch. I must admit my return to Turkey was not a success and it hurt me as a man who was used to success. I was angry at myself and there was some heavy criticism too.” he said. “After I left Beşiktaş [last summer], I thought maybe I could play somewhere else, but I saw that I wanted to call it a day.”

Nihat said he and his family would continue to live in Spain, where he spent his glory days. He admits that “footballers do not much other than the sport,” hinting at a return to the game through a backdoor job.

But for any loyal football fan, Nihat will always be remembered by the way he showed his scoring touch on the pitch – and how he ran to the stands after putting one in the net.