Will Cyle Larin have a successful transition from MLS to Besiktas?
Cyle Larin has made a huge jump in his career. The former first-overall pick in the 2015 MLS Draft spent the last three years terrorizing opposing defences for Orlando City. He will now have his chance to play in Europe.
After bids from Lazio and Feyenoord failed to go through, it was third time lucky for Larin. It took longer than expected and at times seemed the deal was not going to happen. In the end, though, the talented striker completed a switch to reigning Turkish Super League champions Besiktas.
Larin must adapt quickly. Besiktas are a formidable team in Europe, meaning the Canada international must fight hard for a starting spot. The Turkish side also have some tough challenges on the horizon, with a collision against German giants Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16. Larin will go from taking on Minnesota United and Sporting Kansas City to facing defenders such as Javi Martinez, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.
Larin's transfer had far more problems than anticipated. The 22-year-old decided to leave Orlando even though he was under contract until the 2019 MLS season ended. The club demanded he returned to the team's pre-season training camp, but the player replied by saying he wasn't doing anything illegal. The reasoning - and subsequent doubt - was both parties disputed Larin's player option for 2019. Orlando believed it was a team option, while the youngster thought he had the chance to unilaterally opt out of his contract. He had previously confessed his desire to move elsewhere.
Due to Larin travelling to Besiktas, undergoing a medical, and even training with the team, Orlando threatened to take legal action against the Turkish club. Nothing happened on that front, though, and a deal was finally put in place before the January transfer window closed.
Besiktas had found their replacement for Cenk Tosun, who joined Everton four weeks ago for £27 million. Larin has big shoes to fill, as Tosun has been one of the most prolific strikers in Turkish football over the last two years.
Larin scored 43 goals over three seasons in Orlando. Yet a closer look at his numbers suggests a gradual decline. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2015 after finding the net 17 times, but his scoring pace reduced to 14 goals in 2016 and only 12 the following year.
Larin became the youngest player in MLS history to reach 40 career goals, though, so there is no questioning his talent. Can he translate the scoring ability demonstrated on American soil to a tougher environment?
The Turkish top division is complicated. It is also filled with capable strikers such as Samuel Eto'o, Arouna Kone, Wagner Love, Bafitembi Gomis, and Burak Yilmaz. Larin must now prove he is up to the challenge. Not only for himself, but for MLS as well.