By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor
He was supposed to be the missing link. Instead, he went missing. Nuri Sahin's summer switch from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid some 14 months ago promised much, but has delivered little - and now he may never have the chance to show just what he can do at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Sahin was the first player to arrive after Jose Mourinho's maiden campaign in Spain, earmarked to improve the Madrid midfield as either a partner to or a stand-in for Xabi Alonso. In the end, however, he proved to be neither.
The imminent arrival of Luka Modric is likely to see Sahin slip even further down the pecking order at Madrid and even if the capital club opt for a 4-3-3 formation in 2012-13, opportunities are set to be limited for the Turkish midfielder.
Nuri Sahin - the story so far
||The midfielder scored just once for Madrid in 2011-12
||Sahin made only four appearances in La Liga for Mourinho's men last term
||Nuri joined Madrid for €10m but played only 10 games for the Spanish side in his debut season
||Still only 23, Sahin has already won 31 caps for Turkey
||The midfielder played 152 games for Dortmund and won the Bundesliga in his final season in Germany
So although he claims he is keen to stay at the Bernabeu beyond the summer and fulfil his six-year deal in Spain, it may now be time for the German-born midfielder to move on.
Sahin appeared just 10 times for Madrid in 2011-12, making his debut in the 7-1 win over Osasuna in November and featuring sparingly in the remainder of the campaign.
He did start in the Champions League quarter-final first leg against APOEL in Cyprus and was praised by Mourinho after that match, but failed to appear again in the run-in and, questioned earlier in March, the Portuguese coach remained unconvinced at the player's preparation for facing top teams. "Turkey can decide whether he plays or not, but it's easier to play for a national team than for a club [like Madrid]," Mourinho explained. "We're in no mood for joking or giving playing time to players who are performing less than others. It will be difficult for Sahin."
Later, however, the 49-year-old insisted the Turkey international would play a part in his plans and claimed the former Dortmund man would benefit from a full pre-season with the Spanish side, something he did not have in 2011 due to injury. "He will stay," Mourinho claimed in May. "He didn't have a full pre-season with us and now he will do."
However, Sahin could find his growth stunted by remaining in Spain. Even Esteban Granero, praised profusely by Mourinho last term, found opportunities hard to come by in 2011-12, featuring in 28 games but mainly as a late substitute. Granero has Mourinho's trust. Sahin, it seems, does not.
A move, then, may suit all parties. Madrid can comfortably recoup the €10 million they paid Dortmund last summer, while the player himself can rebuild his career as a starter at another of Europe's elite sides. United, having flirted with Modric and Wesley Sneijder last summer, still need to recruit a creative midfielder and Sahin fits the bill.
His elegant range of passing and clever link-up play can make him a success at Old Trafford - providing he can regain full fitness for the coming campaign - and with the team crying out for a player of his characteristics, the stage is set for Nuri to play a pivotal part alongside former team-mate Shinji Kagawa. He wasn't the missing piece at Madrid. At United, though, he just might be.
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