18+ | Commercial Content | T&Cs apply | Begambleaware.org
Some players don't need to play to enjoy a burgeoning reputation. It's fair to say Juventus‘ Merih Demiral is one of those.
The Turkish centre-back had played in just 270 minutes of Serie A action before the weekend, coming in three starts for the Bianconeri.
Given the embarrassment of riches available to Juve coach Maurizio Sarri, there's no shame in that. The Old Lady already had Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini to call upon when they forked out €75million to sign Ajax wonder-boy Matthijs de Ligt in the summer.
Indeed, fearing for his first-team opportunities, Demiral could have left the Allianz Stadium in the summer. Manchester United were reportedly keen on the 21-year-old before finally agreeing to pay a world-record fee for a defender to bring Harry Maguire to Old Trafford.
The Red Devils have plugged the hole in their backline, for now, but Arsenal, Leicester City and Milan are among Demiral's many suitors with the January transfer window opening in under a fortnight's time.
So why is he in such high demand?
In short, Demiral is made for the Premier League. Strong, aggressive and good in the air, he even models himself on a recent icon of the English game – former United centre-back Nemanja Vidić.
“When I was young I always followed Nemanja Vidić at Manchester United,” he told Tam Saha magazine. “I used to watch clips of him on the internet. He’s still my idol even though he has retired. He was brave, a warrior. He never gave up and was a true leader.”
If he comes to England, Demiral will be under no illusions as to what lays ahead of him. It would be easy to mistake him for a brute who uses sheer force as his go-to weapon of choice, but there is more nuance and precision to his game than that.
Demiral proved as much after joining Sassuolo on loan from Alanyaspor in January. So much so, in fact, that 14 Serie A appearances were all it took to convince Juventus they should bring the Turkish international to Turin, even before securing a deal for De Ligt.
Despite only moving to Italy halfway through the season, no Serie A defender won more aerial duels per 90 than his 3.86. Unsurprisingly, that made Demiral a significant threat from set-pieces and he scored twice to give him a headed goals per 90 average of 0.14 – by some distance the highest average in Italy's top flight.
As well as being good in the air, sharp in the tackle and a threat from set-pieces, Demiral possesses a surprising amount of recovery pace. This means that, on the odd occasion he doesn't win the ball first time, he can get himself back into position to have a second bite at the cherry.
On paper, Demiral is just what Arsenal need. A commanding, sure-footed, aggressive and decisive defender, to anchor their infamously porous backline. But the Gunners will face competition from Leicester City.
Brendan Rodgers' high fliers are anticipating interest in Demiral's countryman Çağlar Söyüncü in January. Having missed out to United when they refused to pay the Foxes' asking price for Maguire, Manchester City are now looking to rectify their error by signing the Turkish international.
That would open up a starting berth at the King Power Stadium for the former Sporting B defender, who would do well to heed the case of his international team-mate in the Midlands. Söyüncü had to wait patiently for his chance, only fully establishing himself once Maguire was sold to United.
Demiral has the ability to be another Turkish Delight in the Premier League.