Will Turkey’s Arda Turan be a success at Barcelona?
It’s fair to say that Turkish Footballer Arda Turan had a vested interest in the outcome of Barcelona Football Club presidential election
It’s fair to say that Turkish Footballer Arda Turan had a vested interest in the outcome of Barcelona Football Club presidential election this summer. The Camp Nou club paid €34 million to sign the Turkish midfielder from Atletico Madrid, and yet in the event of a certain election outcome, Artan would have been sold straight back less than two weeks later.
Ultimately, Turan had no real reason for concern - with Josep Bartomeu re-elected, fending off competition from former Barca president Joan Laporta and two others. Of the four candidates that ran for election, only Agustí Benedito vowed to sell the Turkish international back to Atletico, which may have been a factor in his dismal election performance - claiming just 7 percent share of the vote.
Essentially, Turan was used as a €34 million pawn in the club’s presidential election - with Bartomeu riding to re-election having already delivered a marquee signing before the ballot boxes were even opened. But the 28-year-old’s arrival in Catalonia, now that it has been rubber-stamped, signifies much more.
Barcelona may still be the club of the football romantic, but they have changed dramatically over the past few years. Pep Guardiola’s ‘Tiki-Taka’ style, which lingered at the Camp Nou long after his departure three years ago, has finally dispersed, with Luis Enrique developing a team that had become too stubborn for its own good.
They are now more combative, more direct and more mercurial in the final third, with the front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez enough to obliterate any opposition team - as they did on Barca’s way to winning a treble of trophies last season. The need for progression at the Camp Nou was noted well before Enrique’s appointment as manager last summer, but the former midfielder blazed a trail in implementing it where Tata Martino had failed preceding him.
Barca are back to their old selves, in that they are once again European football’s predominant force, but they are now a very different outfit. Turan’s arrival only accentuates the extent to which Barcelona have changed under Enrique, as they finally step out of Guardiola’s shadow. And what’s more, Barca are a better team for it.
But the capture of Turan also underlines the scattergun nature of the club’s transfer policy right now. Barcelona’s midfield is in transition this summer following the exit of Blaugrana stalwart Xavi Hernandez, leaving Enrique short of a pass-master general in the centre of the pitch.
Of course, Xavi’s first-team opportunities were somewhat limited last term, as Ivan Rakitic took on a more progressive midfield role in his place. And given that Turan can hardly be considered a Xavi-lite, stylistically relying on his energy and drive rather than his capacity on the ball, where precisely will he fit into Barcelona’s lineup?
Even by Turan’s own admission, “No one can replace Xavi” - as he explained upon his unveiling. “I am here to give all that I have but I’m not here to equal Xavi. Xavi is a world football icon and will always be a symbol of Barca.”
There’s no place for him in Enrique’s frontline either, with the trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez arguably the greatest strike-force European football has ever seen. The departure of Pedro would free up some squad space, but even then Turan would have to make do with a spot on the bench.
Once the epitome of footballing self-sustainment, Turan’s arrival will also change Barcelona’s identity as a club in the wider sense. La Masia graduates like Rafinha and Sergi Roberto will now find their first-team scope diminished further with Turan now in the reckoning, making Barca just like every other elite club that ignores its own youth ranks.
With Barcelona’s transfer embargo still in place until the turn of the year, Turan won’t even make his debut for another five months - although he has ruled out the possibility of spending that time elsewhere on loan. The Turkish midfielder claims it will take him that long to acclimatise to the club’s style of play.
That might be something of an overstatement, given that Turan already boasts the physicality and intensity to enforce Barcelona’s high-pressing game. His technique isn’t at the level of someone like Xavi, but to label the Turkish international as something of a bumbler would be unfair. He possesses the uncanny knack of wriggling from tackles in much the same way Suarez does.
There is at least some reason to believe that Turan - at his best, an irrepressible force of nature - will be a success at Barcelona, but it is somewhat more difficult to comprehend why he was signed in the first instance. Perhaps it really was all about politics.