The rise and fall of Arda Turan

A star is born in the small and humble Istanbul suburb called Bayrampasa in 1987. His father Adnan Turan was working at Turkish Airlines whilst his mother Yuksel was a housewife.

Arda worked as a "ball-boy" in his younger days at Galatasaray

Arda worked as a “ball-boy” in his younger days at Galatasaray

From the age of 5, Arda loved soccer so much that, like many kids in his neighborhood, he would play soccer for hours on the dirt pitches on an empty block. But unlike other kids, Arda would play against kids twice his age, stealing the ball, tricking and frustrating opponents much older than himself. Having constantly played against older kids had helped with develop his well-known ball-keeping, freewheeling, improvisational style and an unshakable self-esteem.

Arda Turan whilst playing for Galatasaray Youth team

Arda Turan whilst playing for Galatasaray Youth team

At the age of 12, Arda Turan joined Istanbul football giants Galatasaray’s youth academy. According to his father, Arda loved ‘the beautiful game’ so much that he would clean his soccer boots with a toothbrush before going to sleep every night. Arda would spend all his after-school time playing soccer until late hours. He would often work as the ball-boy at Galatasaray games so he could watch his favorite soccer players in flesh. He learned a lot from watching Galatasaray’s UEFA cup winning squad which included Romanian super star Gheorghe Hagi. After becoming famous, it wouldn’t take too long for Galatasaray fans dig in the archives and spot a very young Arda Turan cheering with his fist in the air celebrating a goal Hagi scored from a freekick.

Arda Turan and Gheorghe Hagi

Arda Turan and Gheorghe Hagi

6 years after he joined the club, Gala’s Hagi returned to club as the headcoach. Arda Turan managed to make it to the first team during Hagi’s reign at Galatasaray in 2005/2006 season. But after playing one competitive game, he was loaned to Manisaspor in order to help him gain more playing time and experience. Having moved from an elite club in Champions League in the largest city in the country to a small Anatolian town, Arda sunk into depression and decided to quit soccer. His father motivated him to stay in the game. Arda worked hard and forced himself to Manisaspor first team.

Arda Turan celebrating Turkish League championship with Hakan Sukur

Arda Turan celebrating Turkish Championship victory with Hakan Sukur

Galatasaray president Adnan Polat, unaware Arda Turan was a Galatasaray loanee, was very impressed him when he watched Fenerbahce – Manisa spor game.

In 2007 the young playmaker returned to Galatasaray. After settling in and impressing with his confidence, control of the ball and the game and ability to penetrate the opposing defense lines Arda Turan found himself a regular in the team’s starting eleven.

Adnan Polat and Arda Turan

Adnan Polat and Arda Turan

Arda had made a serious impression on the first team manager Eric Gerets and became a regular name on the team sheet. He scored 2 goals against Mlada Boleslav in Champions Leage qualifying rounds. That year he contributed to his team winning the Turkish league by playing 39 games and scored 8 goals.

Arda never shied away from neither a challenge nor a scandal

Arda never shied away from neither a challenge nor a scandal

The following year he impressed European scouts with his commanding performance in Euro 2008 tournament in which Turkey finished 3rd place despite being the tournament underdogs. Arda scored goals at crucial times; the match-winning goal against hosts Switzerland, another one against Czech Republic (the first goal that kick-started the best comeback in the tournament) and a penalty against the mighty Croatia. Despite receiving transfer offers from EPL clubs like Newcastle and Liverpool, Arda opted to stay in Galatasaray. He wanted to play in Spain for the biggest clubs.

Arda Turan and Harry Kewell played together at Galatasaray

Arda Turan and Harry Kewell played together at Galatasaray

Arda Turan stayed with his boyhood club Galatasaray until 2011. He was handed the captaincy of Galatasaray in 2009. During his time at Gala, Arda Turan played with many international stars including Australian Harry Kewell and Lucas O’Neill.

In June 2011 he signed around €12 million with Atletico Madrid and went on to win Spanish League, UEFA European Leage and the UEFA Super Cup. He became Atletico Madrid’s key player and a fan favoruite. Under Diego Simeone, Atletico ended the Barcelona – Real Madrid cartel on trophies in Spain.

Arda made 178 appearances, scoring 22 goals for Atletico before leaving the club to join Catalan giants Barcelona just before the start of the 2015/2016 season. The deal was thought to be valued at around €35 million and was largely controversial as Arda wouldn’t be able to play for 6 months due to transfer ban imposed on Barcelona.

Not being able to play competitive football during the first half the season was hard for Arda Turan. In a team nominated by the most technically gifted players in the world, including Lionel Messi, this move would prove a test for the Turkish ace who had always been keen to play for Barcelona.

Arda Turan celebrates with team mate Messi

Arda Turan celebrates with team mate Messi

Despite Barcelona’s style being distinctly different from Atletico Madrid, Arda’s versatility and dynamic skills he had shown for the national team was enough to justify his price tag. Barcelona’s transfer ban was lifted by January 2016 and Arda was now allowed to play. But Barcelona already had too many options in midfield. Arda managed to play 45 games and scored 13 goals but in reality, he struggled, didn’t seem to fit in the same system with his teammates.

Things didn’t go so well at the home front either. Turkey national team, relying on Arda’s leadership, was on the decline. A rumor has surfaced that the players were underperfoming on purpose as they were not happy with what they were paid. The Turkey coach Fatih Terim, defended his players by denying the rumours. However national team players, despite performing poorly, indeed demanded money from the Turkish football federation and they sent Arda Turan to their head coach Fatih Terim to demand the money. This marked the beginning of the collapse of his career for Arda Turan. Fatih Terim never forgave him. Turkey failed to qualify for Euro 2016. After photos of national team players joking and laughing at cameras despite their team losing, Arda Turan and his national team mates lost the respect of Turkish people. Arda Turan attacked a journalist who had criticized his lack of commitment. Rather than apologizing for everything, Arda Turan chose to retire from International football to protest everything. He was 29 years old and had 100 caps.

Arda and Terim

Arda and Terim

However, if some people were shocked and saddened by Arda’s decline, many were not surprised at all.

With Barcelona signing him for €35 million and making him the most expensive Turkish athlete, football was no longer the most important thing to Arda Turan, and he started frequenting Istanbul every chance he got. Not being able to play competitive football at Barca, Arda spent a lot of time featuring in commercials, TV shows and making name with different women showing up at different night clubs in Turkey while stories of nights out partying in Istanbul were regularly emerging, as were stories of him slowly being the outcast at Barcelona locker room unwanted by his fellow teammats.

It was a sad sight to see, and the man dubbed The Turkish Messi, was now the persona non-grata.

With him failing to hold down a starting spot at Camp Nou, a loan spell back in Istanbul in 2017 with Basaksehir followed. But sadly, once again, Arda Turan kept in the spotlight not for his soccer skills but his personal relationship with the President and his celebrity status.

Arda Turan's wedding guest : Erdogan family

The Erdogan family was guests of honour at Arda Turan’s wedding

Compared to the big 3 Istanbul clubs Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray; Basaksehir was a newly formed club backed by Mayor of Istanbul and the Turkish President. Basaksehir had almost no organic fans. Transfer of Arda Turan was seen as a method of creating a fanbase for Basaksehir, which was having a great time in the league, chasing championship. Basaksehir had a great form beating all Istanbul giants on the way with a clear points margin in Turkish league. Arda Turan joining the team was expected to make them unstoppable.

Arda Turan signed for Basaksehir, an Istanbul club

Arda Turan signed for Basaksehir, an Istanbul club

Yet Arda Turan struggled for confidence, form and fitness on field as his troubles continued. After attacking a referee, he was given a record 16-match ban. Basaksehir lost the championship race to Galatasaray,

Arda Turan attacking the refree - he was given a record 16-match ban afterwards

Arda Turan attacking the refree – he was given a record 16-match ban afterwards

As well as battling with his declining football life, Arda was also struggling with celebrity status. He had married his girlfriend at a lavish wedding with the attendance of the Turkish President and it was hoped that being a family man would allow him to focus on soccer. However it wasn’t long before his party lifestyle off the pitch began to effect things on it. He continued partying and his work ethnic left a lot to be desired. This did not go unnoticed and over the coming time he found himself playing less and less for Basaksehir.

Fans had forgotten about Arda Turan. He didn’t feature in League or National team games but no one seemed to notice.

Arda managed to get into spotlight for the wrong reason again after being charged over an alleged brawl with a prominent Turkish singer.

Arda, Berkay and Berkay's wife Ozlem Sahin

Arda, Berkay and Berkay’s wife Ozlem Sahin

Prosecutors have asked for Arda Turan to be jailed for 12.5 years over the incident, which left Turkish singer Berkay with a broken nose. Berkay, was with his wife Ozlem Sahin at an upmarket nightclub in Istanbul when the altercation allegedly broke out with Arda Turan.

Ms Sahin told the media that Arda had made suggestive remarks to her, and then launched an attack on her husband – who was later taken to a hospital to have surgery on his broken nose.

Although Arda Turan asked for forgiveness by denying the incident, video footage of Arda Turan showing up to the hospital with a gun and getting into another altercation with Berkay was leaked.

Shortly after the incident, Arda Turan’s club Basaksehir, announced that they would fine the player 2.5 million Turkish lira (about 370,000 euros) for “behaviour incompatible with the club’s values,” although they would keep him as an active player until the sentence.

Whatever your opinion on Arda Turan there is no denying he had all the potential and raw talent to become on off all time footballs greats. It is sad to see a fall from grace of this magnitude, more so because the person who worked hard to win it all when, lost it all so easily when everything was in his favour.

In terms of football Arda Turan is still not old. The 31-year-old may still be able to turn everything around and prove himself.

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