Arda Turan Shows Promise on Barcelona Debut Against Espanyol

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2016

Barcelona's Turkish midfielder Arda Turan (L) vies with Espanyol's Chilean defender Enzo Roco during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) round of 16 first leg football match FC Barcelona vs RCD Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on January 6, 2016.   AFP PHOTO/ PAU BARRENA / AFP / PAU BARRENA        (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
PAU BARRENA/Getty Images

Contrary to popular opinion, playing with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar is not easy.

Ivan Rakitic said as much in an interview with Marca, via Sport, with the Croatian explaining that the rest of the team must work themselves to the bone to create space and opportunities for the stellar trio up front:

Many people say that it is very easy to play with them. I don't agree. They are players of a different level and, if we play for them, it is because they have earned it but that does not mean it's easy - and if I have to run 5,000 kilometres for one of them to have their best moment, I will do it. We do it.

Arda Turan discovered that on Wednesday night, when he finally made his Barcelona debut after a six-month freeze-out, thanks to the FIFA transfer ban that stopped both he and Aleix Vidal being registered after they signed for the club last summer.

Turan and Vidal were registered on Monday and both featured against Espanyol in Barcelona's 4-1 win in the Copa del Rey last-16 first leg.

Former Sevilla defender Vidal came on for Dani Alves from the bench, while Arda started in place of Rakitic.

Doubtless, he will have to play himself into Luis Enrique's first team to get regular minutes, but this was a good start for the Turk.

The other 10 players on the field with him had all started the Champions League final in May.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Arda Turan of FC Barcelona looks on  prior to the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Arda is capable of hard work and graft and he showed it in this match.

One of the reasons Lucho wanted to bring him to Barcelona from Atletico Madrid, for €34 million plus add-ons, is his work ethic.

Under Diego Simeone, Arda added that side to his game, his game for Atletico a combination of sweat and skill; the perfect combination to sit behind Barcelona's trident.

It will take time to bed in, but Arda got off to a good start against Espanyol, a crunching encounter, with the Catalan derby a tricky match in which to make your debut.

He will rue one moment in the second half when he missed a chance to score, but his overall performance level was good and his substitution for Rakitic was not an indictment on his performance levels or fitness, just a nod by Enrique to show the Croatian he is still a piece of Barcelona's puzzle.

The longer the game went on, the more comfortable Arda looked, beginning to come deep into midfield to get the ball before springing forward.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with his teammate Arda Turan of FC Barcelona after scoring the opening goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on Ja
David Ramos/Getty Images

One such burst saw him lurch ahead of Messi, who rolled the ball forward for him, but Arda's shot was beaten to safety at his near post by Pau Lopez.

Barcelona signed Arda knowing that occasionally his temper can flare up, as seen when he threw his boot at a linesman during a Copa del Rey clash with the Catalan side last season.

And he managed to rile Pau just before half-time, running in too close to the goalkeeper's head for comfort, while he was on the ground.

Arda scuttled off to safety as Suarez confronted Pau on behalf of the midfielder. Although at the time it was a moment of high tension, events in the second half superseded it when two Espanyol players were sent off, and a scuffle broke out in the tunnel, per Sport.

Barcelona's Turkish midfielder Arda Turan (R) argues with RCD Espanyol's Spanish goalkeeper Pau Lopez during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) round of 16 first leg football match FC Barcelona vs RCD Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on Ja
PAU BARRENA/Getty Images

The Turkish star left the field with Barcelona 3-1 up, and Neymar’s late goal means it’s highly likely the Catalans will go through to the quarter-finals of the competition, with much less pressure on the second leg of this tie at Cornella next week.

Arda was quietly confident on his debut, doing what he needed to and beginning the process of adapting to life at his dream club. He has a lot further to go, but this was a good base to build from.