Orkun Kökçü: What’s Got Barcelona, Arsenal & the Rest of Europe on Red Alert?

Orkun Kokcu
Orkun Kökcü celebrates a goal for Feyenoord | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

There is something slightly more enticing about any footballing prodigy when he’s the product of Dutch schooling.

Technical astuteness, perfectly crafted tactical brains and absolute dedication to their field are just three of the certainties you get with those breaking out from Netherlands.

So when a 19-year-old starts strutting his stuff and making football seem like an effortless endeavour, the rest of Europe takes note.

And not just ‘the rest of Europe’, but bloomin’ Barcelona. That’s who.

Oh, yeah, and Arsenal.

Further afield there are other sides linked with Orkun Kökçü, but these are the two who’ve been most prominently linked, which begs the question: why?

In such an inflated market, snapping up talent at a young age works wonders for the bank balance. The need to secure the best players from around the globe is at the forefront of every club’s mind, but if they can do so for a lesser sum, then bob’s your teapot.

Even better if the player in question isn’t plying his trade at one of the top sides in one of Europe’s big five leagues, exactly like Kökçü is doing. Rumoured fees hovering around the £20m-mark have been mooted, which makes a move for the teenager all the more tempting.

But enough about the financial bearings of any deal. How good is Kökçü, and what could he bring to any side, let alone the two mentioned?

Marouan Azarkan, Orkan KokcuMarouan Azarkan, Orkan Kokcu
Orkun Kokcu has caught the gaze of Arsenal and Barcelona | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Firstly, he offers versatility. This has become something of a trend over the past few years, where players capable of playing in a variety of positions – generally across forward lines – are becoming increasingly more alluring propositions.

This is something Kökçü certainly has in his locker, having featured across the midfield this season as well as further forward playing off the striker.

The reasons for being utilised in a number of positions for Feyenoord springs from Kökçü’s creative ability and neat ball control. His passing range stretches the length of the pitch, be it precise one-twos in tight areas or cross-field passes to marauding wingers.

Standing at under six foot, his low centre of gravity and nimble footwork make him a pain to pinch the ball off, hence why his skillset is beneficial when he’s both acting as the base for an attack, or as the final piece in the puzzle to unlock a rigid defence.

Che Nunnely, Orkun KokcuChe Nunnely, Orkun Kokcu
Orkun Kokcu is capable of playing anywhere in midfield | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

However, despite all this, Kökçü suits best playing as a number ten, where his vision and technique are able to fully flourish.

It’s easy to see why Arsenal are interested. Mesut Özil is a shadow of his former self, and Dani Ceballos looks unlikely to join Mikel Arteta’s revolution on a permanent basis given Real Madrid’s lofty asking price. He’s seen as the creative midfielder they sorely lack – and perhaps there are even slight comparisons to Santi Cazorla to make.

The Spaniard was an expert in navigating his way out of sticky situations, be it with a silky bit of skill or a bamboozling drop of the shoulder. Kökçü has all of these traits, as well as the same kind of relentless engine that Aaron Ramsey has become known for.

Whether it’s sprinting back to bulk up the numbers in defence, or late, well-timed surges into the box, his ability to read the game and instinctively foresee the next phases of play make him an enticing prospect.

Showing positivity when on the ball is likely what has caught Barcelona’s eye, as he is insistent on playing forwards wherever possible – and even sometimes when not. Risk taking is something he’s not afraid of, suiting the ethos that Barça have of always playing on the front foot.

Orkun Kokcu, Robert Bozenik, Steven Berghuis, Tyrell MalaciaOrkun Kokcu, Robert Bozenik, Steven Berghuis, Tyrell Malacia
Kokcu’s form coincided with Feyenoord’s 14-game unbeaten league run | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

His regularity in the starting lineup from matchday 12 onwards demonstrates his importance to the team, as well as his influence. Since cementing his place in the regular XI, Feyenoord went 14 matches without defeat in the league, during which time Kökçü laid on four assists and grabbed himself a goal.

The Eredivisie was brought to an abrupt end in April, but with Feyenoord just six points shy of Ajax with an incredible run of form, it’s no surprise that Kökçü too was enjoying the best spell of his career to date. If the season had been fully played out, then the title race would have been a mouth-watering climax.

Kökçü is far from the finished article – very few are at 19 years old – but the early indicators are there that the atypical Dutch-moulded prodigy is very much alive in this Turkish sensation.

With the £20m (or so) price tag floating around, coupled with clear natural ability, it’s just a matter of time before Arsenal and Barcelona are joined by swarms of other European heavyweights in the race for his signature.

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