The fact that, after just one breakthrough season in Turkey, an 18-year-old midfielder has attracted close attention from top European clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan—and more—says a lot about his potential or the ultra-competitive transfer market climate today, depending on how you spin it.
Fenerbahce’s prized youngster Arda Güler is firmly on the radar this summer. To steal a march, Real and the interested parties must decide whether to activate his €17.5 million ($19 million) release clause, with the race intensifying in Spain after Barcelona’s soon-to-be appointed sporting director Deco reportedly nudged the Blaugrana into an opening gambit.
Already a senior international and a Nike athlete, Güler, whose playing style has drawn comparisons to (yes, that’s right) Lionel Messi, has supposedly discussed his future with Fenerbahce and its president Ali Koç, as noted by the Turkish outlet Sabah. So far, they have given nothing away publicly.
From the candidates plotting a swoop for the playmaker, Real’s next move will be the most revealing. Los Blancos have invested in stars with a similar profile to Güler before and with mixed results. Two stand out: Mesut Özil, who left German side Werder Bremen as a 21-year-old to become a star in Madrid, and Martin Ødegaard, a teenager very much on the fringes before sidestepping to the Premier League and Arsenal. Real eventually made a profit on both players.
That brings us to Güler’s buyout sum. The €17.5 million ($19 million) amount for a player wanting to start games rather than occupy the bench is a risk for someone relatively unproven. Then again, given his ceiling, Fenerbahce could have driven a much harder bargain, with him its most promising homegrown asset and whom the team can build around as it aims to dislodge Galatasaray at the top of Turkish soccer after finishing second to its rival last term.
Now would be the moment to pounce. Real president Florentino Pérez has called an end to the team’s transfer business, but if the board sees enough promise, it will do well to sign him for a cheaper fee later in his career. Güler also falls in line with the targets Real usually prioritizes. In recent windows, it has recruited the best talents yet to establish themselves, or with many years on the clock, such as Rodrygo, Vinícius Júnior, Jude Bellingham, and Endrick—some for a reasonable price and a high resale value. The list goes on.
Güler is a left-footed number ten who typically drifts in from out wide. Upon completing a switch to the Santiago Bernabéu, his most obvious competition for a starting berth would be Rodrygo and Marco Asensio, who operate in the advanced forward slots on the right while Vinícius plays on the left. Forcing his way into such a lineup is a tall order, at least to begin with. In contrast, he may be a more natural fit at Milan, for instance, now without Brahim Díaz in a similar role after his return to Madrid.
From a Fenerbahce standpoint, it could do with the money. The team remains heavily in debt alongside the other big clubs in the Turkish capital, Istanbul: Galatasaray and Besiktas. Lately, it’s resembled not so much a selling club but one that sells to selling clubs. In response to interest in its last major star, the South Korean defender Kim Min-jae, it presented him to Napoli for around the same price as Güler. Since then, after a stellar spell with the Italian champion, he appears set for a much more costly switch to Bayern Munich.
Prising the Turk—whose talents have been endorsed by the superagent Rafaela Pimenta—away from Fenerbahce is proving delicate business, mind. The player’s agent, his father, supposedly wants Fenerbahce to receive a more substantial offer, according to Calciomercato. Naturally, the protagonist also needs to hit the ground running, wherever he ends up, and not have his development halted by limited match time so soon after bursting onto the scene.
The verdict? Güler is better off staying a Fenerbahce for another year or seeking first-team soccer outside Real or Barcelona, where frequent playing opportunities are less probable. Even so, he’s bound to make an impression, never mind the league. Unless Real stumps up the cash, Milan and Barcelona seem likelier destinations at this stage.