Hakan Calhanolgu’s FIFA ban could doom Bayer Leverkusen’s Champions League hopes

Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu will serve a four-month FIFA ban after being found guilty of breach of contract by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. As a result of his suspension, Calhanoglu will miss the rest of the season, including Leverkusen’s crucial Champions League knockout round matchup against Atletico Madrid.

CAS said the FIFA ban, which was frozen pending an appeal, “is reinstated with immediate effect,” and the 22-year-old midfielder must also pay the €100,000 in compensation to Turkish club Trabzonspor, for whom he agreed to sign as a teenager.

The Turkish club first filed their complaint with FIFA in April 2013, and both Calhanoglu and Trabzonspor challenged FIFA’s final judgment in the case. Despite Calhanoglu’s ban, CAS said Trabzonspor’s appeal was only partially upheld.

“The club sought the return of a €100,000 advance that it had made to the player as well as compensation of €1 million,” said the CAS.

Calhanoglu was a youth player at German club Karlsruher when he was paid €100,000 after an agreement to sign for Trabzonspor in the future. He went on to sign for Hamburg before landing at current club Bayer Leverkusen.

An important player for Leverkusen, Calhanoglu’s scored seven goals and added seven assists across all competitions for the club. He’s their best set-piece taker, and his absence will be a hammer blow for Bayer as they try to push for a European place, languishing in ninth in the Bundesliga. Leverkusen had nothing to do with Calhanoglu’s contract breach, but they’re still hit hard by the ban.

Without their star man, Leverkusen will lean on players like Kevin Kampl and Charles Aranguiz to step up in midfield, but they have no real like-for-like replacement in the squad for his creativity and ability. The timing’s even worse with the January transfer window having just slammed shut.

“It’s a heavy blow for Hakan, but also for us,” Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller said in a statement.

“Although Bayer Leverkusen had nothing to do with the events in 2011, we are now being heavily punished. Now we’re missing a very important player during a decisive part of the season.”

Calhanoglu is also suspended for Turkey’s World Cup qualifying match at home against Finland on March 24.