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Arda Turan An Unlikely Barcelona Signing

Early Monday, FC Barcelona announced the acquisition of Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid for €34 million. Although the contract has been signed, Turan won’t be allowed to play for Barca until January due to the club’s ongoing ban on registering new players.

Reports from Spain claim the Turkish midfielder will go out on loan until the embargo is lifted, with Galatasaray being the likely destination. This transfer marks the second notable purchase for Luis Enrique this summer after adding Aleix Vidal from Sevilla back in June.

Because old habits die hard, most of us see the signing of Turan as unequivocally un-Barca-like. We still think of Barcelona in the image of Pep Guardiola, and rightfully so. The dominant and stylish run of the Blaugrana from 2008-12 was the kind of mould-shattering occurrence that understandably results in the claiming of a firm identity.

Because of this, we still think of Barca as the Xavi-led ticking time bomb of pass-and-move tiki-taka brilliance. But they’re not that anymore — not exactly anyways. Xavi’s gone, and his place is one you don’t just replace. Luis Enrique recognized early last season that the Xavi Era needed to be built upon and, yes, even changed. A historic European and domestic treble confirms that his suspicions were dead-on.

So when you wipe away the remnants of an era gone by, it’s easy to see that Arda Turan is in fact the ideal Enrique player, and thus, the ideal Barca player for today. Like two of the midfielders the Spanish boss chose to lean on over the course of last season, Ivan Rakitic and Rafinha, Turan embodies the spirit of this new-look-and-feel Barca. The Turk’s industrious nature and vigorous commitment are clearly the kind of attributes that Enrique values. As Barca move further away from the calm and calculated approach left by Guardiola, the requirements point more towards players like Turan.

Of course, Barca are still world football’s main purveyors of champagne football, and luckily, Turan has that angle covered too. He was first introduced to the world at Euro 2008, in which he led Turkey to the semifinals, providing two goals in the process. During that tournament, Turan — then just 21-years-old — was just a budding, precocious talent, but things quickly changed. By 2009, he was captaining Galatasaray and scoring in the double-digits from midfield.

Then in 2011, Turan met Diego Simeone, grew a grizzly beard, and jumped over to the darkside to become the Arda so many of us love and a few of us hate. At that point, he embodied the supposed counteraction to whatever a Barca prototype was meant to look like. Simeone’s teams, while plenty exciting to watch, were bullish, favoring a direct, physical approach to Barca’s methodical one. It’s taken a brave Enrique to even begin to alter those preconceived standards in order to give way for credible, productive players like Turan.

Now, where exactly the new Turk fits into Barca’s XI positionally is a mystery yet to be solved. As far as Enrique’s current squad goes, Arda compares most fittingly with Andres Iniesta, at least in regards to positioning.

Turan’s ability to play out-wide in attack is an invaluable quality, much in the same way it’s always been for Iniesta. But, all things considered, Arda’s best and most frequently operated post is on either side of a midfield three. Looking ahead to the next couple of years, when Iniesta’s role is likely to shrink, Turan appears willing and able to slot into the rather large hole that the Spaniard vacates.

 

Still, we don’t really know what Turan’s status at Barcelona will be, or if he’ll even be a Barca player at all. With Barcelona’s presidential elections taking place as we speak, Turan is strategically being used as a chess-piece by current president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

As typically happens in these situations, one last “legacy transfer” from the potentially out-going president has become the norm. (A prospective Paul Pogba-shaped cash-dump also looms on the horizon for whichever candidate emerges victorious, although Bartomeu currently holds a significant lead against former president Joan Laporta, his only real competition.) Bartomeu’s purchase of Turan, even with the knowledge that he won’t be suiting up for at least six months, is strangely par-for-the-course at Barcelona.

But the club’s presidential elections add a unique and unprecedented wrinkle to this particular transfer. Because of the possible election of a new Barcelona president on July 18, a clause was added to the Turan contract that allows the club to sell the player back to Atletico Madrid within two days of his election for 10 percent less than the fee Barca agreed (€34m). It’s quite a genius play by Barca to include in the contract, one that gives the unusual control over the risky stakes of the deal.

One could argue that it’s just further proof of Barcelona’s evergrowing flippant attitude towards standard practices. Others could simply write it off as good business. It’s probably a bit of both, in all honestly. The greedy will always get greedier as they get richer, and right now, Barca is pretty damn rich in the wallet and the trophy cabinet. The acquisition of Arda Turan enforces that truth even more.

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