Hearts captain Alim Ozturk believes a good season in the Scottish Premiership can help him force his way into the full Turkey squad.
The 22-year-old centre-back has been capped at under-21 level and, having established himself as a key man at Tynecastle since arriving from Trabzonspor 15 months ago, now has his sights set on further international recognition.
Ozturk, who will lead Hearts out at Inverness tonight, is confident that national team bosses will be monitoring his progress in Scotland and he feels he has a genuine chance of being called into the squad in the near future if he can help his club challenge towards the top of the league.
“I have goals for myself and one of them is to play for the national team of Turkey,” he told the Evening News. “I played for the Under-21s before but to get into the Turkey squad is a dream for me. If I get a chance like that, it would be the best day of my life. I follow everything about the national team, I look at every squad and watch every game. I’m desperate to be involved and I think it’s a realistic aim for me.”
Turkey are well placed to secure a Euro 2016 play-off berth after thrashing the Netherlands, the country in which Ozturk was born, 3-0 on Sunday. Of the most recent squad named by manager Fatih Terim, 20 of the 23 players were from home-based clubs. The Hearts skipper, however, doesn’t believe playing in Scotland will act as an impediment to a call-up.
“There are not a lot of Turkish players playing in the highest leagues in Europe so they will know about all of us who are abroad,” he said. “Most Turkish players play in Turkey so I think it will be viewed as a positive that I am playing abroad. You get different experiences playing in different countries compared to if you just play in Turkey.
“The two defenders who played against Holland play for Bursaspor and Galatasaray. They play at a high level but it’s not as if they are playing every year in the Champions League or anything like that. I play in the highest division in Scotland and I am only 22 and still have plenty time ahead of me. Everything is going well, so why not?
“Everybody talks about Celtic in this country but if I can help Hearts do well against them or finish at the top, the Turkish federation will see that. I’ve not had any word from them but I’m certain they will be following me. They follow every Turkish player, so they will know about me. I just need to keep playing every week and if I do my best, my chance will come. I believe I am good enough to play in the national team either now or in the future.”