Very few players belong at the top levels of Premier League football, even fewer can say they consistently performed at such levels. From signing for Blackburn in 2001, to his retirement in 2009. Tugay deserves a place among the greatest central midfielders ever to have played in the top division of English football.
The recognition of his talents within the football world is constant. From opposing managers to his own teammates, no one he has come in contact with has failed to notice his mesmeric ability.
An attacking midfielder in his time at Galatasaray and Rangers, then taking up a position in front of the back four at Blackburn. Tugay had the ability to cut defences open with passes, or glide past three or four opponents.
There was no other defensive midfielder in the Premier League that could play like Tugay could
This quote from Schmeichel says a lot. Considering Tugay was 31 when he signed for Blackburn under Graeme Souness, his ability to control games was unrivalled. His relationship with Souness was what brought him to Ewood Park, after having worked together at both Rangers and Galatasaray.
Idolised at Galatasaray due to a decorated domestic and consistent international career. Tugay’s technical ability was on show and somehow the big clubs missed it. Souness, however, would not make that mistake.
Though not prolific in any sense, netting 11 times in over 200 appearances for Blackburn, every goal that Tugay scored was one for the scrapbooks. Forget Gerrard’s against West Ham in the FA cup, or Scholes infamous volley from Giggs’ corner. This is something special.
The technique behind that volley is exceptional. Striking a dropping ball towards the top corner, without any spin on it, shows his technical ability. The commentators reference ‘a Tugay special’ shows the Turk’s penchant for scoring incredible goals.
25 yard strikes against Basil, West Ham and Portsmouth were also in his locker. And who could forget, this stunning volley against Fulham:
Throwback to when Tugay scored this absolute cracker ???pic.twitter.com/N3jKG9KaPq
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) May 19, 2017
Tugay was special. Not many footballers could operate at the heart of an over performing Blackburn team and propel them to European places in the Premier League. Unlike Gerrard, or Scholes, Tugay didn’t have class all around him.
His age was also a factor, even fewer players could perform at such levels and gain as much praise for their midfield role in their mid-thirties.
Thus, in the history of the Premier League, which has seen countless midfield talents and a plethora of incredible players, Tugay deserves a place above the rest.
I spoke to Sir Alex about him after the game and he was commenting on what a good player Tugay is. I told him that if Tugay was 10 years younger He’d be played for Manchester United and Sir Alex agreed. Given his ability he could play for anyone. The quality he could produce is as good as any I’ve been involved with.
The Turkish international may have flown under the radar for the majority of his career at Galatasaray, in spite of his accolade ridden tenure. But at Blackburn, despite his age, Tugay’s capacity lit up the stadium. His technical ability was second to none, his knack for unbelievable goals was inexplicable and his legacy at Blackburn untainted.
Tugay is in a class with Gerrard and Scholes.