In a deliberately barren summer 2015 transfer window, FC Barcelona made just two signings: Turkish midfielder Arda Turan, arriving from Atletico Madrid for a fee of €34 million; and Spanish winger and right back Aleix Vidal, transferring from Sevilla on a €18 million fee. At the time, Barca were still serving out a FIFA transfer ban for breaking the rules of the "international transfer of minors." As a result, while Turan and Vidal arrived at Camp Nou in the summertime, they were barred from actually competing for FC Barcelona until after January 1, 2016.
The Debut Performances
Now, though, with the New Year finally upon us, Barca's year-long transfer ban has officially lifted, meaning that both Turan and Vidal are finally allowed to play again. Both footballers donned the Barcelona home shirt 2015/16 on Saturday, January 9th, picking up their first La Liga starts for Barcelona in a home fixture against Granada.
Both Turan and Vidal had enjoyed their proper Barcelona debuts just three days earlier, playing in the football club's Copa del Rey fixture against Espanyol. Turan was featured in the starting lineup for that fixture (which Barca won 4-1) while Vidal came off the bench at the 67-minute mark. Both Turan and Vidal were featured in the starting lineup for Saturday's game against Granada, though, and both acquitted themselves well in their first league appearances for the team.
Turan, especially, was stellar. Just eight minutes into the game against Granada, the midfielder provided an assist that allowed Messi to net the first goal of the contest. It was a great start for a football fixture that would see a hat trick from Messi-his first since returning from his lengthy knee injury-and a late goal from Neymar for a final score of 4-0. Luis Suarez, while he didn't score, was still present, contributing two assists along the way.
Turan was also a part of Messi's third goal, sending a pass to Neymar that nearly resulted in another point. Instead, Neymar's strike hit the post, bouncing off and landing right at Messi's feet for an easy rebound and a beautiful goal. The goal didn't net Arda a second assist, but it may as well have for how integral he was in orchestrating it.
With Arda Turan stealing the spotlight, Vidal's first start for Barcelona wasn't as much of a talking point. Still, the defender got 65 minutes of play and was part of a solid defense that rarely let Granada get close enough to try for shots on goal.
Reinforcements for a Stellar Soccer Squad
Despite worries that Barcelona's squad might be a bit thin following Lionel Messi's injury in the fall, Barca have held together nicely throughout the 2015/16 season. Neymar and Suarez both stepped up to keep Barcelona in a winning mode during Messi's absence. The result is that Barca are sitting second on the La Liga table, just two points behind Atletico Madrid despite the fact that they've played one fewer match. Make no mistake, FC Barcelona are still the favorites to win the Spanish top-flight soccer title this season.
With that said, the reinforcements of Turan and Vidal (as well as anyone manager Luis Enrique signs during the January transfer window) clearly will only help Barca's mission to win a second straight treble. Arda especially could be integral. On Saturday, the 28-year-old talent was the star of the football club's midfield, making a strong case for himself as the hardest working man on the pitch as he offered consistent and valuable assistance to Barcelona's stellar attacking lineup. The fact that Turan was able to help Messi net his first hat trick of the 2015/16 season can't be overstated, and could be enough to push Barca over the top to win another La Liga title and perhaps even another Champions League this coming spring.
What did you think of Arturo Vidal and Arda Turan in Saturday's game? Will these two players help Barcelona turn in a second straight year of legendary results? At Soccer Box, we want to hear your thoughts. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr to share your first impressions on Turan and Vidal!