Note (1): This article is based on rumor and speculation. In fact, the player in question and his agent have come out and denied said rumor and speculation. Nevertheless…
Note (2): Guess who’s back? Kevin chimes in with what he claims is a guest post called Luck, la Masía and winning the lottery.
Confession time. I have a soft spot for Arda Turan, who is possibly my favorite player in world football that doesn’t sleep in blue and red pajamas. Or maybe he does. So I must have been ecstatic when his imminent arrival to F.C. Barcelona was announced through various Catalan media outlets, right? I’m not so sure. Let’s examine three aspects of this deal.
There are a lot of things to like about the Turkish Magician. His trickery and guile. His passing. His strength. His never say die attitude. His I laugh in the face of death attitude. His if I have to die I’ll kill the linesman with my shoe before I go attitude. Exactly how this goes hand in hand with his I’m leaving because Simeone makes me run too much attitude would be a paradox for Luis Enrique to solve. I have three words for you: rotation, rotation, rotation. Presumably the reasoning behind the Turk’s thinking is that the intensity of being a pillar of the most intense team in the world has left him battered and bruised to the point of missing an assorted 194 days to injury over the last four seasons. If this is indeed the case, then managing his appearances is a solution that would play right in the cards of a coach who is already quite dedicated to rotating his players.
He can play on the left, right and center of the midfield and on either wing. In our squad, theoretically he would compete for a spot with the forwards and the central mids. As far as Neymar and Messi go, we should note that they only like to share playing time with Neymar and Messi so for all intents and purposes the rotation would be between Iniesta, Rakitic, Rafinha and Pedro. Is he an upgrade over any of the starters? It is tempting to say he isn’t. A lot of culers like to believe that our players are by definition the best players in the world and even more after a the treble year, but how does one compare and judge accordingly? His average rating of 7.08 as calculated by the stat geeks on whoscored.com is exactly the same as both Iniesta and Rakitic. He scores significantly higher in the couple of games he played on the wings and even more so when compared to Pedro. The latter, however, knows how to play in a system which might give Arda Turan trouble.
It gets complicated when you try to figure out how he would adapt from Atletico Madrid to Barça. As a matter of fact, it is difficult to judge any player coming from the Calderón. Filipe Luis looked like one of the best left backs in the world under Simeone but, despite the fact that Mourinho’s teams are set up in a comparable fashion, he has not done well at Chelsea. All Atletico players count “defensive contribution” as a strength, but are those individual skills or is it down to Simeone threatening to shove their heads in an oven and cut off their pinky finger if they don’t defend? Also, it is easier to make defensive contributions if remaining compact and well-organized on defense is your team’s main priority. How would they do against opponents that park ten players in their third of the pitch and break out on the counter?
We know that Turan is a team player who likes to play short passes and also that there is a fiery directness about him, all of which are qualities that could help him make the transition to Luis Enrique’s Barcelona. How he would adapt to a three-man midfield in a team that is always on the attack remains to be seen but, even in case he doesn’t make the gala eleven, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Turk would not improve our squad.
Social media, coffee break areas and the streets of Barcelona are rife with discussions about whether the interim board have the right to purchase a player or not. Some will tell you that they should not even negotiate. Article 32.4 of the club’s statutes offers the following:
The Managing Committee will perform all governmental, administrative and representative functions that are normally attended to by the Board of Directors. It shall limit its acts to those that are necessary and essential in order to maintain the club’s regular activities and to protect the club’s interests.
This is the only passage in the rulebook that relates to what the Managing Committee can and cannot do. It is up to debate whether spending 35 million euros on a player is an essential act to maintain the club’s normal activities and / or protect its interest. The argument could of course be made either way and a lot depends on the interpretation of what those normal activities and interests are, especially in July. As is often the case, how people feel about this is influenced by which candidate they prefer. Laporta supporters are crying foul from the digital rooftops. Bartomeu supporters, well, Bartomeu supporters aren’t all that loud and usually don’t have a Twitter account. The points of view are further influenced by whether or not a fan wants the player at the club.
I still haven’t figured out whether Arda Turan suiting up in our colors would make me happy or not and I distrust both Bartomeu and Laporta. However, for me the difference between the Arda Turan deal and the Aleix Vidal transfer is three weeks and little more. If the rumored negotiations are true, they are conducted by an interim board acting upon the planification made by the technical committee and, apparently, the express wishes of the head coach. If a target had been decided upon months ago, should the club lose said target because of the elections? Should the club hold off negotiations with say, Paul Pogba, and risk losing a player both main candidates claim they would sign? Should they not sell Deulofeu, a player who was sent away on loan by his coach last summer and has struggled to convince anyone but his mother in Sevilla? Are these matters not normal activities at this time of the year? Is it not in the club’s interest to act? I’d say it’s up to interpretation, and until the statutes of the club are modified to further specify what a Managing Committee can or can’t due, it is impossible to judge too strongly either way.
Of course, the board that is now being criticized for the Aleix Vidal transfer and the current negotiations are the same people who criticized Laporta for signing David Villa at the end of his presidency in 2010. Again, one’s judgment is often colored by one’s sympathies. At the moment of writing the Managing Committee is reported to have reached an agreement with all parties involved but will wait for the incoming president to sign off on the deal. I see this as a slick way of avoiding to give Bartomeu’s opponents the ammunition that a risky signing would provide while at the same time providing the voters an unexpected carrot, albeit one with a beard. For all we know, there isn’t any deal to begin with. After all, according to the carrot and its agent, F.C. Barcelona hasn’t shopped in their market stall.
It’s easy to agree that Arda Turan would improve our squad. That much is clear. But would that make him a good signing? Xavi has left. That leaves only three players, Iniesta, Rakitic and Rafinha for two midfield slots*. Iniesta and Rakitic were starters in the gala line-up for all big matches in the business end of the treble season. However, 31-year old Andrés will need to be replaced eventually and it is better not to wait until he is 34. Rakitic, despite all his qualities, is not a player an elite club should build their midfield around.
To many followers, the answer is Paul Pogba. It’s certainly an opinion I share and, if Bartomeu and Laporta are to be believed (a big IF), the next president of the club will sign the Frenchman for 2016. While it is obvious that three midfielders for two slots is insufficient, five midfielders for those same two slots are too many. I’m not sure it make sense to buy a big name to compete for a position for half a season – remember that Turan would not be able to play until January – only for Iniesta’s replacement to arrive next summer. We would then be left to find minutes for four midfielders who are accustomed to start important games and one whose growth will be completely stunted.
While the colchonero is definitely the better player right now, it’s worth asking ourselves whether a 22-year old Arda Turan was as good as our 22-year old Rafinha. Unlike his brother, the Brazilian wants nothing more than to succeed at the club that raised him. He might never become a star, but he has certainly shown signs of promise and he is still young enough to give him plenty of time to improve. F.C. Barcelona takes great pride in the Masía. What does it mean if we deny a talented kid from our own academy who is dedicated to our colors the chance to consolidate himself as a squad player?
However, a combination of two other scenarios come to mind that very few people have talked about so far. One is that Pedro might decide to leave. Between the Canarian’s minutes and midfield rotation, Arda Turan’s playing time would not interfere with Rafinha’s growth. The other scenario is that we sell Turan in one or two years. Luis Enrique gets to cover his butt this year (imagine Iniesta gets injured) and Pogba’s arrival will go forward as planned.
Wow… Based on these if’s, I think I just might have talked myself into liking this transfer. Too bad it’s a lie… Unless it’s not!
*From what we’ve seen last season, I assume Sergi Roberto will only fill in at the defensive midfield position.