gambling cards-Steven Caulker hopes to learn from Andrea Pirlo for his long

Steven Caulker in action for Sierra Leone
Steven Caulker has won seven caps for Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone captain Steven Caulker hopes to learn from his new manager Andrea Pirlo at Fatih Karagumruk to help with his long-term goal of becoming a coach.

The former Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool defender, 30, has signed a two-year deal with Turkish Super Lig side after terminating his contract with rivals Fenerbahce.

He was close to joining Championship side Blackburn Rovers before opting to sign for Istanbul-based outfit Karagumruk.

Pirlo was considered one of the best midfielders and play-makers of his generation, winning the 2006 World Cup with Italy, a combined six Serie A titles with Juventus and AC Milan and the Uefa Champions League twice among other achievements.

The 43-year-old coached Juventus in 2020-21 before moving to Karagumruk in June.

"I'm happy to be at Karagumruk and I'm looking forward to learning from coach Pirlo," Caulker told BBC Sport Africa.

"I have a long-term goal to be a coach and that was part of my decision in coming to Karagumruk - to learn from one of the best players and someone who is very focused on being an even better coach. That's a good experience for me.

"It's a fresh start for me, to get the chance to work under an amazing football player with bags and bags of experience at the top level. He's got a lot of good staff around him as well, he's worked at the top, so I'm in good hands.

"I'm looking forward to learning from him."

London-born Caulker won one cap for England, scoring in a 4-2 defeat by Sweden in 2012, and also featured for Great Britain five times at the 2012 Olympic Games.

However, he switched allegiance to Sierra Leone, the country of his paternal grandfather, last year and played in January's Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon where he featured in all three group matches against Algeria, Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea.

Move can benefit Leone Stars after Fenerbahce 'mistake'

Steven Caulker in training for Fenerbahce
Former Cardiff and QPR man Caulker joined Fenerbahce from Alanyaspor in June last year but never made an appearance for the Turkish giants

Caulker was named captain of the Leone Stars after the Nations Cup, and he says another reason for him to join Karagumruk is to play regularly to be able to perform well for the West African country.

The centre-back had joined Fenerbahce in June last year, but spent the 2021-22 campaign on loan at Gaziantep and decided to seek a switch away from the record 28-time Turkish champions.

"Another important part of me making the move was to play games," he said.

"I didn't want to sit at Fenerbahce for a year without being given a chance. I wanted to make sure I'm somewhere where the coach wants me.

"I learnt a lot from my mistake joining Fenerbahce last year, so it's important that this year I joined somewhere where they wanted me and I want to play.

"We have got really important Afcon qualifiers coming up and I need to be playing regularly to be able to perform my best in the qualifiers. So that's a big part of my thinking as well.

"I don't want to spend the year on the sidelines. It's important that I play regularly, except I have to fight my place. But I feel I have a fair chance here to do so."

Caulker had been talking to several Championship clubs as he considered a return to English football, and says he was "close" to joining Blackburn before deciding to stay in Turkey.

"In terms of Blackburn, I had several conversations with them," he added.

"I haven't played football in England for a long time and in some ways I feel like I still have unfinished business there. But after conversations I felt that Istanbul will be a better fit for me and a more exciting adventure really working under Pirlo."

Karagumruk is Caulker's fourth Turkish top flight league side after spells at Alanyaspor, Fenerbahce and Gaziantep.

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