Galatasaray’s youth programme continues to produce quality young talents. Its latest shining star is Arda Turan. He was a well known player in Turkey, through his involvement at every level of football up to his eventual breakthrough for Galatasaray’s senior team. The talented youngster announced his arrival on the international stage at this summer’s Euro 2008 championships in Austria/Switzerland.
In Turkish football Galatasaray have an important role and many look to them to provide some of the talented youngsters that will form the next generation of international players. We could call them the Ajax of Turkey in this respect. Tugay Kerimoðlu and Emre Belözoðlu are the well known players in England that came from the Galatasaray youth setup. Further players of note are Okan Buruk and Bülent Korkmaz. They all started their professional career at "GS" just like Arda Turan. They have become world stars and now it is his turn.
Arda Turan began at the amateur club of his quarter, "Bayrampasa Altintepsispor" and he didn’t take long to display a high level of technical ability far beyond his tender years. Legendary Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim saw the potential in him, and signed him to the Galatasaray youth team when he was just 12. He played consecutively for four years in the youth teams of “GS” and as part of the so called "Golden Generation" team he won many titles as he progressed.
In Turkey, youth players are often given the job of ball-feeders at official games. Once Arda Turan was feeding the ball back in play to Hagi. When Georghe Hagi arrived as coach at Galatasaray, in 2004-2005, Arda found himself a place in the first team. Even if he could play in friendly games before the season, he couldn't get so many chances to play throughout the season proper. In the 2005-2006 season he has loaned out to Vestel Manisaspor. Arda didn’t lose faith at being loaned out and simply worked even harder for the time he was at Manisaspor, even though on some occasions he was played at right-back! He improved his skills throughout the season with very good performances, clocking up 15 games and two goals, even making an assist that didn’t go unnoticed against none other than Galatasaray!
When Arda returned to Galatasaray for the next season he proved to coach Eric Gerets that he was a player worthy of being involved in the senior squad. He started in the first eleven in a Champions League qualification game against Mlada Boleslav. In his very first game in European competition, Arda scored twice in an excellent performance and helped Galatasaray to reach the next stage. Arda was fast on the road to being considered as indispensable to the first team.
Arda continued his good European form soon after by picking up the Man of the Match award in his first Champions League game at home to Bordeaux.
A dream came true for the young potential star. Arda was given the chance to become an important part of the first team by coach Gerets and managed to play in all Galatasaray’s games in the group stage of the Champions League, except Liverpool. The reason for him missing the Liverpool game was a so called “moment of madness”. The Turkish youngster was punished by the referee in the group game against Bordeaux after he headbutted the French side’s Pedretti. After this incident Arda garnered much critiscm from the Turkish media, who before had had nothing but praise for the young star. Arda was forced into making a public apology and declared he did not know what had come over him, but that it would not happen again.
Last season at Galatasaray began with high expectations for Arda, especially with the signing of Brazilian Lincoln, who everyone was eager to see him link up with. The pressure didn’t get to him and he continued where he had left off the season before by providing two assists in the first game of the season. During the title winning campaign Arda clocked up 30 league appearances, fourteen assists and seven goals. Perhaps his most important performance for his club came right near the end of the season when the pressure was on in the title race, Arda fired in a hat-trick against rivals Sivasspor in a game that moved his club closer to that Super Lig crown.
Arda’s international career started with the youth national teams where he picked up twenty one caps, scoring eleven goals. However, the reason everyone now knows Arda Turan is all due to his performances in Euro 2008. Even in the qualifying stages he was making a name for himself, playing nine games and providing three assists.
Arda may not have started the first game of Euro 2008 against Portugal, because of Fatih Terim’s gamble of playing Kazim and Mevlut, but he did get a chance against Switzerland, and how he took it! Arda’s fantastic run and shot in the 92nd minute sent Turkey into that last game against the Czech Republic with a real chance of qualifying from the group.
One of Arda’s often overlooked skills is his ability to hold up the ball and wait for his team-mates to join the attack. Some people think the reason he does this is because he lacks pace, but he has often said before that he feels it is important for the team to attack together. Against the Czech Republic and Croatia Arda did this many times and the team were much stronger when they attacked in force.
Whilst Arda has an amazing ability to dribble past opponents, what he perhaps lacks is a powerful shot from outside the box. People who saw his great strike against Switzerland in the Euros would be surprised at this, but in Turkey it is well-known. The goal against Switzerland however did show that this is an area of his game he is working hard at.
To be a world star, a player should win many titles says tennis player Roger Federer. Winning titles is necessary but furthermore, to do this, you need a strong character, which Arda has, too. Arda is a livewire in training, joking with his team-mates and always motivated.
With his comments after the Euros he showed that he has the potential to be a world star. For example, he scored the first penalty against Croatia, and when a journalist asked him about taking the first penalty he said: "It was an important opportunity not to miss, because you can not play all the time in the semi-final. You can not know what the future brings, maybe that is my last competition. It was a big risk but I’ve taken it and raised my hand when my boss asked who is going to take the first penalty." That is Arda, never afraid to shy away from taking responsibility and feeling, importantly, that not to take responsibility is to miss out.
The youngster’s biggest dream was to play with Hakan Sukur, a dream he realised, and whilst Arda says he hopes to play more times alongside this legend of the Turkish game, that seems impossible now he has departed Galatasaray.
After the Euros ended there were many transfer rumours about this potential star. In my opinion he should make the move to a big European team in another league to continue his personal development. The national team would surely feel the benefit of that. Also if Arda left then perhaps the next star can emerge from the Galatasaray youth factory.
At the time of writing however a move for Arda looks out of the question. Galatasaray president Adnan Polat stated that none of the team’s stars will move before the Turkish giants have won a European Cup. So for this next year it seems certain that Arda will stay a Galatasaray player and that is something the fans will not compain about!