Following a successful start to his international career, 33-year-old Bursaspor captain Ömer Erdoğan is looking to show just how far he has come at club level against Valencia CF.
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Seven seasons after his last taste of European football, Bursaspor captain Ömer Erdoğan is itching to show just how far he has come as his side host Valencia CF in their maiden UEFA Champions League fixture.
Ömer's previous experience of continental competition was against another Spanish club, Villarreal CF. Then, playing for Galatasaray AŞ, his team were undone 5-2 on aggregate in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup third round. However, according to the 33-year-old, circumstances have changed significantly. "We were going through hard times then," Ömer said. "We were out of the title race and down on our luck. I have improved hugely since and gained a lot of experience. My current team play better team football too."
Ömer arrived at Bursaspor in 2006, but believes he made his true breakthrough after Ertuğrul Sağlam's appointment as coach. "My confidence really grew after he came here and my performance levels increased dramatically," he added. "This month I was capped by the national side for the first time which is proof of my rise."
Turkey coach Guus Hiddink was looking to fill one of the centre-back berths and did not hesitate to give a debut to Ömer, despite the player's age. Strong in the air and always focused, the former striker played every minute of Turkey's recent UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying wins against Kazakhstan and Belgium, vindicating the coach's decision with strong displays.
Now he has made his mark on the national team, Ömer is putting all his efforts into Bursaspor's first game in Europe's premier club competition. "It is a match we've been waiting a long time for," he said. "We are excited and ambitious. Valencia have star players like Joaquín, Vicente and Juan Mata but we have never taken special measures for any player. We concentrate on our team play and deliver. It's important to play our own game, listening to the coach's instructions."
While Ömer concedes the visitors may have greater experience, he can also see areas where the Turkish champions may have the edge. "Valencia are a side that make a lot of passes and always look to score. They have been playing high-profile competitions for years and are used to them. However, we have advantages too. We'll be playing in front of our own passionate fans. We've kept our squad from last season and the coach knows every player very well. Also, our newcomers have adapted quickly. It will be a meeting of two teams who like to play good football."