Fatih Terim hailed Arda Turan as Turkey’s best player on the eve of their Euro 2016 campaign despite the midfielder’s struggles at Barcelona.
Turkey kick off their Group D campaign against familiar foes Croatia at Parc des Princes on Sunday and their status as underdogs for the match is bound up with Turan’s fall from prominence, following his dazzling spell at Atletico Madrid.
The 29-year-old joined Barca despite the Liga champions being under a player registration ban last year, meaning he was unable to make his debut until January.
Turan then failed to establish himself as a fixture in Luis Enrique’s richly gifted first XI, while he found himself cast as a scapegoat for poor performances in some quarters.
Veteran coach Terim was flanked by highly touted Bayer Leverkusen playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu for the first part of a wide-ranging pre-match media briefing in Paris, but he left those in attendance in no doubt over who is his main man.
“Arda, he didn’t get many minutes in his club team but in the first part of the season when he was banned and I played him in every single game [for Turkey],” said the 62-year-old.
“In the second half of the season he got some minutes. If he played more it would be ideal for us.
“The Spanish press are always criticising him when his team loses. He is an important player for us, no matter if he plays or not in Barcelona.
“It’s my colleague Luis Enrique’s decision, I respect his decision. Arda, no matter whether he plays or not in his club team, here he is our most important player.
“I believe we will witness once again that he is our most important player.”
Terim added: “He made a great move, he is playing in one of the biggest teams in the world. He was a champion [in La Liga] and won the Copa del Rey.
“Of course he had some problems physically but step by step he has been improving and he will be in ideal shape. I’m okay with it, he’s in my gold squad.”
Calhanoglu and teenage sensation Emre Mor are among the exiting young talents in a squad the Terim was keen to insist has not come together by accident.
“I believe that we got them together, this generation, we chose them one by one,” he said.
“You should remember what the press was saying after the Brazil game [a 4-0 home loss in November 2014]. Those were hard days.
“It takes some time to have a good mixture of players. You don’t catch a generation, you make a generation, you create a generation.
“You synchronise them and get them together in a good mixture. It takes a huge effort, it doesn’t come by itself.
“Me and my friends have done a huge effort to get this generation together.”
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