A fans' favourite wherever he has been, Turkey defender Egemen Korkmaz will be "playing from the heart" once again in Beşiktaş JK's vital encounter with Stoke City FC.
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Egemen Korkmaz's committed style made him a fans' favourite at Bursaspor and Trabzonspor AŞ and he has wasted no time acquiring the same status at Beşiktaş JK.
The 29-year-old Turkey centre-back is aiming to help Beşiktaş get the point they need at home to Stoke City FC to join the English side in progressing from UEFA Europa League Group E on Wednesday. Egemen has certainly proved a crucial part of coach Carlos Carvalhal's plans since his summer move from Trabzonspor, starting every European and Super League match – only once not playing the full 90 minutes – and has a fair idea of why he has proved such a popular figure.
"I'm a player who gives 100% on the pitch," he said. "I have a proper lifestyle and act like a true professional. I think I prepare for the games well and have good concentration during matches. When fans see you play from the heart and make the most of all your abilities, they seem to like you."
Even a dozen years into his career Egemen is still improving, with his anticipation, positioning and tackling all developing during his three years at Trabzonspor. "I'm 29 but still constantly trying to improve myself," he said. "For example, for three years I've been working on building up the game from the back."
His endeavours were rewarded in September when the former Under-21 international finally made his senior Turkey debut in the 2-1 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying defeat of Kazakhstan – and stayed an automatic choice for the remaining five fixtures. Before his call-up he had signed for Beşiktaş after turning down an offer from Toulouse FC, subsequently taking the chance to showcase his talents on the European stage. Egemen has headed two UEFA Europa League goals from corners, including the winner in the 1-0 home win against FC Dynamo Kyiv in November that has left Beşiktaş on the verge of the round of 32.
Beşiktaş have twice reached European quarter-finals, most recently in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup, and while they are not yet confirmed in the knockout phase, Egemen confessed they are beginning to dream. "We are just thinking about advancing into the knockout stage at the moment," he said. "But if you asked any player in the team, he would be dreaming about lifting the trophy at the end of the season.
"We have a large squad that consists of players with different qualities. But the concept of being a team is something different. We are still working on it and getting better each day. When we get to that point, then I have no doubt we'll be in a strong position."