In light of Lionel Messi’s exit from Barcelona, all may seemingly look lost, though, in Demir, they have a star for the future.
Barcelona are in a complete financial mess this summer, a situation described by new President Joan Laporta as ‘worse than I expected, and I expected it to be in a difficult situation’.
The club are required by La Liga financial fair play regulations to make savings of over €200million ahead of the new season in order to register any new signings. The failure to extend Lionel Messi’s contract is not something many would have expected.
The Athletic report this season’s wage bill of €160million dwarfs in comparison to the €671million budget of the 2019/20 season.
This dire financial situation, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic – the club reporting losses of €203million in 2020, has forced Barcelona to operate unconventionally in the transfer market. The club have focused on shifting high earners from their lengthy contracts, whilst also seeking value in free signings and loan deals.
Fixing the ship of finances
Miralem Pjanic, originally signed in a bizarre Arthur swap deal with Juventus, has been linked with a two-year loan return to the Old Lady, the club keen to absolve themselves of his bloated £270,000 a week wages. Samuel Umtiti, another on over £200,000 a week, has also been added to the fire-sale list, although his injury concerns since 2018 have proved unattractive to any suitors.
Both players were requested by Barcelona to be released from their contracts with immediate effect, although understandably turned down this offer with the intent to see out their remaining deals.
Phillipe Coutinho will be allowed to leave for as little as £30million, a loss of over £100million on his gargantuan signing from Liverpool in 2018, while Barcelona will also hope to offload Sergi Roberto, Neto, and Moussa Wague before the summer window closes.
The clubs’ finances are so crippling they took the decision to terminate midfielder Matheus Fernandes’ contract despite four years remaining on his deal, with the Brazillian set to take Barcelona to court for unfair dismissal.
Junior Firpo, Jean-Clair Todibo, and Carles Alena, all previously considered excellent prospects for the future, have been sold for a combined £21.8million in a desperate effort to balance the books, whilst Francisco Trincão has joined Wolves on loan.
At the same time, the club have tied up the free signings of Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia from Manchester City. Memphis Depay has signed a 2-year deal following the expiry of his Lyon contract. The only money the club has spent on new incomings this summer has been on Brazillian right-back Emerson Royal – exercising a €9million buyback clause from Real Betis.
However, amongst this chaos and uncertainty, one signing that appears to have gone somewhat under the radar has been 18-year-old Austrian winger Yusuf Demir . The youngster has technically joined up with the Barcelona ‘B’ squad but will feature with the senior team. The deal contains an option to buy next summer for roughly €10million.
Demir is one of Europe’s most exciting teenage attacking talents and could represent extraordinary value for Barcelona in years to come. They say every cloud has a silver lining – and Barcelona being forced to operate ‘outside of the box’ may benefit the club greatly in the long-run, if they choose to make the loan switch permanent next summer.
What sort of profile is Demir, and what could he contribute to Barcelona’s squad next season?
Demir and his career to Date
Demir was born in Vienna in 2003 and joined local side First Vienna aged seven. After three years with the club, he was signed by Austrian heavyweights SK Rapid Wien. Rapid’s trophy cabinet contains 32 Austrian Championships, as well as experience in both the Champions League and Europa League.
Demir broke into the Wien II team in the 2018/19 campaign, aged just 15, scoring one in 11, whilst also featuring for Austria’s U17 side. Demir scored in friendlies against Cyprus, Belgium and Georgia, featuring in a right-wing role.
He scored a brace against Georgia in a 7-0 thumping in Austria’s qualification route to the U17 Euros. Sadly, Demir missed out on Austria’s final squad for the tournament, as the team finished bottom of Group D.
The 2019/20 campaign was a real step-up for Demir, promoted to the senior team by Dietmar Kühbauer, still only 16. Demir made the Wien senior bench for the first time in November. He picked up his first eight minutes off the bench against Admira Wacker in December.
An ankle injury ruled him out for the next five games. However, he played another 176 league minutes across five games before the end of the season, which finished in July. Demir continued to feature for the Austria U17s. Furthering his tally to a total of nine goals in 14 games for the youth side.
This upwards trajectory only continued last season. Demir became an integral member of the Wien squad and featured in a number of roles across the attack.
Versatility in positions
Traditionally a right-sided winger, he picked up minutes on the left as well as centrally in the ‘number 10’ role. His involvement in the league grew to 25 games – or, the equivalent of 9.2 full 90 minutes. He was primarily deployed as a super-sub.
Demir scored three and assisted six, including a brace versus WSG Tirol, averaging a goal contribution every 91 minutes. Demir also scored versus Gent in the Champions League qualifiers. Thus becoming the youngest Austrian to score in European competition since Gerd Wimmer in 1994.
After Wien dropped into the Europa League, Demir played an additional 162 minutes. This included the full 90 against Arsenal and scoring against Dundalk in a dramatic 4-3 win.
This fine form saw Demir first called up to the Austria U21s. He made his full senior debut in March this year against the Faroe Islands.
These superb performances and precocious career development saw Barcelona swoop for Demir in July. It was a loan deal worth €500,000 – the youngster also signed a new deal with Wien until 2023. This means the Austrian club won’t lose him for free if Barcelona don’t exercise their option to buy clause.
Demir played 45 minutes against Gimnastic in Barcelona’s first preseason game. Going on to play an additional 60 versus Girona, both games ending in a Blaugrana win. Demir then played the full 90 in a 3-0 win over Stuttgart, converting a Griezmann cutback in the 36th minute.
Koeman loved what he saw. “Demir? A great talent, he has a great future like the rest of the players who played today and this is important for the future of the club”.
Style of Play
Demir is a versatile and dynamic attacker – able to perform in a wide range of attacking roles. This is evident in his career ‘positions played’ graphic, courtesy of TransferMarkt. The bigger the circle, the more minutes in each position:
Standing at 5”8, Demir has a low center of gravity enabling him to retain the ball in tight spaces. He combines this with electric bursts of pace and acceleration, which makes him an exciting watch. His 6.8 attempted dribbles per 90 and 3.8 completed dribbles per 90 both ranked highest in the Austrian Bundesliga last season.
This aspect of his game has drawn comparisons to the legendary Lionel Messi. Although we should be careful with this moniker, as Marko Marin was once compared to the Argentine. He now finds himself a free agent following his release from Al-Ahli.
Aside from being able to find the net on a regular basis, Demir is also an effective creative outlet. He can set up teammates when unable to find the net himself. His 2.7 key passes per 90 ranked in the top six in the Austrian Bundesliga last season. Like Messi, he is a threat from dead-ball situations.
Demir has also drawn comparisons to Arjen Robben. Both players have a powerful left-foot, enjoy receiving the ball in wide areas before cutting in centrally. They also have an eye for getting off a shot whenever possible.
Demir showed off his extreme talent in the 4-3 win over Dundalk in the Europa League Group Stage last season. Scoring in the 90th minute to make the score 4-2. Despite only playing 18 minutes, he completed 100% of his dribbles and 86% of his passes. Additionally, winning 5/8 ground duels – working hard defensively to earn Wien the three points.
Confidence in his abilities
Demir is a confident player aware of his capabilities and skills – evidenced in his extensive club and international experience at the age of just 18, with the Barcelona website stating “he may be young but he already has experience of playing at the highest level and knows how to score goals.”
Upon joining the club, Demir said, “I will be moving to my favourite club and the biggest club in the world. I came to Rapid as a small child with big dreams and am now an incredibly grateful boy.”
Koeman appears to entrust Demir with a role around the first team, giving him the full 90 minutes against Stuttgart. With Coutinho and potentially Antoine Griezmann set to depart Barcelona this summer, Demir could provide a valuable rotation option.
Signing Demir is astute business
Whilst Barcelona continue to remain embroiled in financial disorder and uncertainty as a club, the signing of Demir, which will likely be made permanent next summer, represents extremely astute business, and one which Barcelona can reap the rewards of for years to come.
Given their deepening financial woes, Barcelona would do very well to alter their transfer strategy. Going from risky, high-transfer, high-wage deals such as Coutinho and Griezmann, to low-risk, high-reward youth talents – the type of which Demir perfectly embodies.
Many youngsters have come to Barcelona and failed to live up to the hype. The likes of Alen Halilović, Giovani Dos Santos, and Bojan haven’t made it for various reasons. It may just be wise to back Yusuf Demir to buck this trend.