Being compared to Argentine legend Lionel Messi is now a right of passage for any young attacking player, especially those with a low centre of gravity and superb dribbling skills, both of which the 18-year-old from Altindag possesses.So far nobody has lived up to the hype, certainly not the aforementioned Sardar Azmoun, Marko Marin and Ryan Gauld. In all likelihood, no one ever will.However, there is genuine hope that the ludicrously-talented Guler can become one of those to move beyond the tag and forge his own stellar path - one that now looks likely to lead him to the league the man he is being compared to spectacularly tore up for much of his unparalleled career.
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Guler has been heavily linked with a move to one of Europe's biggest clubs from almost the moment he stepped in to Fenerbahce's first team, such is his prodigious talent. Messi's former club Barcelona have been open about their interest of late, with president Joan Laporta even sending sporting director Deco to negotiate a deal.It will really stick in Catalonian craws then that the player has instead seemingly opted to join their fierce rivals Real Madrid, joining an ever growing cast list of the continent's most promising talent at the Bernabeu.What has really whet the appetite of his suitors - which also apparently included Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Paris St-Germain and Premier League trio Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle - is the reported existence of a release clause of just 17.5m Euros (£15m), triggered by him having played 1,500 first-team minutes.At a time when the likes of Kai Havertz and Mason Mount are going for fees around £60m, a price tag a quarter of that for a player with such a high ceiling represents a snip.This is a young player who was entrusted with a senior debut at the age of just 16, coming off the bench in the 66th minute as Fenerbahce beat HJK Helsinki 1-0 in the first leg of a Europa League qualifying game on 19 August 2021. One who provided an assist on his Super Lig debut and became his club's youngest ever league goalscorer when he netted in a 5-2 win at Alanyaspor on 13 March 2022, just 16 days on from his 17th birthday.
In total, he now has seven goals and seven assists in just 1,187 Super Lig minutes - that's a goal action every 85 minutes.
That he was handed the Fenerbahce number 10 this season is a sign of just how quickly he has established his credentials. That is the shirt previously worn by Tuncay Sanli, Robin van Persie and Mesut Ozil, but more significantly by Alex - a legend of the Istanbul club who scored 171 goals and registered 136 assists in 344 games between 2004 and 2012 and has a statue in his honour at Kadikoy Yogurtcu Park.
If Guler is to be compared with anyone, former Brazil captain is perhaps the best match - a player the Turkish teenager idolises.
Like his hero, Guler has a low centre of gravity, supreme close control and dribbling ability. Take, for example, the purposeful flick over his own head under pressure and a weaving, driving run past three players before being fouled for a penalty against Besiktas in April - one of many impressive clips that comprise the inevitable YouTube compilations already dedicated to this fledgling talent.He also possesses the prized ability to pick and play the right pass. See the devastating assist he provided in the 2-0 win over Antalyaspor, evading two opponents before curling a pass from the right precisely with the outside of his boot through two defenders and into the stride of scorer Enner Valencia. Most players don't do that, especially not at 18.His ability to shift direction and initial turn of pace are electric. He is also versatile enough to operate in numerous attacking roles, although he favours cutting on to his left foot from the right, and is a menace from set pieces - the means through which he provided his debut assist, from a corner.Added to that is a willingness to press and, despite his tender age, mix it with the bigger boys.