Former youth coach claims Real Madrid starlet Arda Guler has ‘more potential than Messi’

Real Madrid summer signing Arda Guler could be on the verge of his debut this weekend against Sevilla, and it could be the first steps of arguably the greatest player ever – according to one of his youth coaches.

Former Genclerbirligi youth coach Erol Tokgozler worked with Guler at the age of just 13, before Fenerbahce came knocking to poach him from Ankara to Istanbul. Effusive in his praise for Guler, even at that age he was managing his life both on and off the pitch to optimise his football.

He could scarcely have made a bigger claim about Guler either, as he spoke to Diario AS.

“Messi is the greatest I have ever seen and Arda has great abilities. Messi has already achieved everything and Arda still has to do it all, he is still a child. But if we talk about potential purely, Arda has more potential than Messi. Although he still has a long way to go.”

“His football is in its initial phase, he must play many games to become the player he can be. But, as I say, Arda’s potential is better than Messi’s. Just talking about potential, of course.”

Even so, the mere mention of Messi’s name will prick up many an ear. Playing at Fenerbahce and Real Madrid, the 18-year-old will be no stranger to pressure though. In terms of who he models his game off, Guler was always focused on a less heralded name.

“Alex de Souza, the Fenerbahçe legend, was Arda’s idol. He looked at everything he did to try to copy him. Alex was Arda’s hero. He never spoke to me about another player. It was always: ‘Alex, Alex, Alex’.”

Already Guler has won plenty of praise from coach Carlo Ancelotti. Tokgozler notes the thing that most impressed him about the Turkish protege.

“His ability with the ball at his feet. The thing is, the ball was like another limb, a third foot. He could do anything that set his mind to. And the best of all is that in each situation he had two, three, four or five alternatives, five different plans. The position on the pitch didn’t matter. He plays football with his mind. The defenders thought when they faced him, how can I stop him?”

As with any player, and particularly a youngster, there will still be areas for improvement though.

“His potential is undoubted, anyone can see it. He has everything to be a great player. But he has only played 30 or 40 games as a professional, he is practically a debutant in elite football… When I trained him I told him that he had to play freely, without focusing on defending. Losing the game didn’t matter, the main thing was that the player, Arda, improved and grew. Now the situation will be different.”

Certainly it takes little for the ever-attentive media in Madrid to focus the lens on a player who is not meeting expectations. For Guler, his time at Real Madrid will be defined by how he deals with the bumps in his progress – in Vinicius Junior, Jude Bellingham and a cast of impressive youngsters at Real Madrid, he will have plenty of examples to follow at least.

Tags Arda Guler Barcelona Fenerbahce Lionel Messi Real Madrid
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