Who is new Real Madrid player Arda Güler?

The signing of Turkish youngster Arda Güler has sent Real Madrid fans’ excitement levels into overdrive, and not simply because they beat Barcelona to his signature.

But who exactly is the 18-year-old that Los Blancos have tied down to a six-year deal at the Bernabéu?

An early start

After five years in the academy of Gençlerbirliği, the club of his home city, Ankara, Güler was picked up by one of the giants of Turkish football, Fenerbahçe.

The attacking midfielder made his debut in August 2021, aged just 16, in the play-off round of the UEFA Europa League against HJK Helsinki. That same month, he made an assist on his Turkish Süper Lig debut.

He went on to make 16 appearances, scoring three times in his maiden campaign in the Fenerbahçe first team.

Dealing with the pressure

This time last year, Güler was rewarded for his impressive debut season by being given the No.10 shirt at Fenerbahçe.

The shirt was not only vacated by one of his heroes, Mesut Özil, but once belonged to his idol and bonafide Fenerbahçe legend, Alex de Sousa, a former captain who was resident on the Asian side of the Bosphorus from 2004 to 2012.

The weight of the number and expectation did not derail Güler, who played 35 times last season and doubled his goal tally, playing an instrumental role as Fenerbahçe finished second and won the Turkish Cup, in which young Arda was Man of the Match in the final.

Making an international impact

Having made an impact with the Under-21 side, he made his debut for the Turkish senior team against Czech Republic in a 2-1 win in November 2022.

Now on four caps, he found the back of the net for the first time last month, scoring the second in a 2-0 win over Wales as Turkey went clear at the top of their Euro 2024 qualifying group.

After Turkey failed to live up to their dark horse tag at Euro 2020 and missed the World Cup, Güler is starting to make Turkey fans dream again.

The “Turkish Messi”

Real Madrid fans may want to come up with a new moniker for their starlet, but the “insert nationality Messi” nickname is more appropriate for Güler than most others who have come before.

An attacker who can play through the middle or cut in from out wide with great creativity, he has speed in abundance and dribbling ability, and knows what to do with a set piece – the similarities with the new resident of Florida are plain to see.

Real pay over the odds

Fenerbahçe had set a €17.5m release clause in the contract Güler signed last year, but Real Madrid signed him for €20m.

It has been said this was just a formality to pay Gençlerbirliği their sell-on fee, though with not just Barcelona but – according to reports – Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Newcastle United and others all interested in him, perhaps it was wise for Real Madrid to pay extra and avoid a bidding war this summer.

Anthony Tomas | GSFN

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