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Roaring for Galatasaray: Arda Turan

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.(insidefutbol)

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!

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Euro 2008: View from Turkey

In qualification Turkey didn’t play so well against their rivals from the group. But apart from the game in Istanbul against Greece, the side did begin to show they have the ability to change the result of a game with great comebacks. This has been repeated and for us Turkey fans the three group games have been like deja-vu. (insidefutbol)

Against Portugal Fatih Terim tried to go down as a hero. He played an attacking line-up starting with Mevlut and Kazim on the wings and Gokhan Zan in the centre of the defence (I expressed my doubts about him in my preview of the squad). For the first 15 minutes Turkey couldn’t find that goal, although our attacks looked quick and dangerous. Even though the attacks of Ronaldo, Simao and Deco were stopped in the first half, the defence forgot about Pepe who was a huge threat from set-pieces. After the Portuguese goal, Kazim made a number of fouls which constantly gave the play back to Portugal. After going behind in this game it was all over.

Going into the game against Switzerland neither team could afford to lose. Fatih Terim learnt from his tactical mistakes in the first game and started with Arda and Gokdeniz on the wings. But, with the heavy rain, the tactics of both teams were washed down the drain. Switzerland found the goal due to adapting better and playing a long ball up field, that with Emre Asik and Volkan’s positional mistakes helped Turkey go behind.

Turkey learnt and began too to play with long balls, in order to play this way Terim brought on Semih to replace Gokdeniz and importantly, Mehmet Topal for Aurelio, to hold the midfield against the Swiss. These substitutions and the change in style helped Turkey to change the game and play around the Swiss 18 yard area.

Crosses coming from the wings allowed Turkey to get the important goal, and though the Swiss did find some goalscoring positions, Volkan was at his best to deny them. His save in the 83rd minute was particularly important and many Turkish fans believe this is the moment when destiny intervened. The rest is history as Turkey threatened more and more and eventually Arda, the young shining star from Galatasaray, got the goal in the 92nd minute. If he continues such displays you have to wonder whether Galatasaray will be able to hold onto him for much longer.

The final group game against the Czech Republic was a final game that deserved its name. If the scores were level then it would go to penalties and neither team really wanted that. Turkey struggled to cope with Jan Koller and the ball stuck to him up. Nothing passed the big man as he held the ball up, he was like a wall. His goal in the 34th minute was not a surprise.

After the first half we again saw Terim change the game. He brought on Sabri who offered much more of an attacking threat. Sabri swapped positions with Hamit. This confused the Czechs as Hamit charged forward at will. The opposition still throught he was a right-back. Through playing closely with Sabri and constantly swapping position, both players were able to attack more effectively. The participation of Kazim too, meant that Turkey were able to own the right wing.

Turkey’s domination of that wing helped the second goal arrive, with the help of Cech and the rain of course! But we should not forget the follow up work of Nihat. He was acting like all good poachers do and waiting for the mistake.

The Czechs were of course puzzled to lose their two goal lead and the incredible through ball from Hamit followed by an amazing finish from Nihat gave Turkey their third and sent the Czechs out.

Looking at the Croatian game, all Turkish fans know they obtained fantastic results against England in qualification. This play has been repeated against Germany, so we all know it was no flash in the pan.

With their players like Modric, Kranjcar and Corluka, they seem to have re-discovered something of the spirit they had in the 1998 World Cup, which brought them third place.

Both Turkey and Croatia will fight hard because both are trying to make a place for themselves between the traditional footballing giants. Croatia coach Slaven Bilic’s admission that he fears Turkey’s ability to play in an unsystematic way (swapping positions constantly) makes many in Turkey believe that they are one step closer to victory.
Turkish fans are sure that thanks to the comebacks against Switzerland and the Czech Republic, the team are sure to go into the game with so much confidence. The feeling is that even if Turkey went a goal behind, it is never over and the players always feel they can win.

Of course the decisions of the managers of each team will be crucial. For Turkey though, the position in which Hamit will play will be very important, and missing Servet for the match is a real blow. But I cannot help but think that the match will in fact be decided by the number 14’s of each team, that is to say Modric and Arda. One will continue their journey in the Euros to become a star, but even if one is left behind, we will not forget their excellent play.

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