Ever since Emre Demir made his Super Lig debut as a 15-year-old, Turkish football fans have been waiting for the teenager’s true breakout moment.
That was back in May 2019, with the expectation then that the Kayserispor youngster would soon emerge as one of the brightest lights in the European game.
And though a number of factors have meant that the midfielder is yet to fully explode, his potential has clearly not gone unnoticed elsewhere, namely at Camp Nou.
After rumours swirled throughout the summer, Barcelona announced in late September that Demir had agreed to sign for them at the end of the 2021-22 season.
The Blaugrana will pay €2 million (£1.7m/$2.3m) to bring Demir to Catalunya, with the 17-year-old signing a deal with the Liga outfit that contains a €400m (£340m/$460m) release clause.
Such a price may seem a lot for a player who does not turn 18 until January, and has just 32 senior appearances to his name, but Demir is not just a special talent, but a record-breaker to boot.
On just his fourth league appearance, against Genclerbirligi in November 2019, Demir showed great poise to control a lobbed ball into the box and produce a superb angled drive into the roof of the net with his left foot just three minutes after coming off the bench.
In scoring at the age of 15 years and 299 days, he became the youngest player ever to do so in Super Lig history.
Demir’s history-making performances and now subsequent move to one of the biggest clubs in world football does not come as a surprise to those who saw him come through the ranks, however.
His footballing education began in his hometown of Manisa, playing for local side Kuvayi Milliyespor, when he was spotted in 2012 by then-Kayserispor board member Suleyman Hurma.
“I watched a video clip of Emre when he was eight and I was really impressed,” Hurma told Spor Arena. “I invited him and his family to Kayseri straight away.
“He went straight in with the Kayserispor academy players and I saw that he had exceptional talent. He seemed like an older player who had been made to look younger!”
That talent quickly began to show itself in goal output for Demir, who scored 49 goals in 49 games for the club’s Under-14s side, before netting 10 more at U16 level on his way to all but skipping the U17s and joining with the first-team squad.
During that time he did, in fact, get his first taste of life in Barcelona, as the Spanish giants took him on trial in 2017, though they could not sign him due to Demir being just 13 at the time.
“I went to Barcelona’s academy and stayed there for two weeks,” he told TRT Spor after his move to Barca was confirmed. “I really liked the atmosphere there and made a promise to myself: ‘I will come back here one day and wear this jersey!’
“Now I am very happy that my dreams are coming true.”
So how will Demir fit in at Barcelona? His style of play certainly suggests he has La Masia DNA, even if he only spent a fortnight there, with his first touch, excellent vision of the game, dribbling ability and capacity to find himself in good goalscoring positions all boding well.
With his long hair and tendency to favour his left foot, there are those who compare him with early-stage Lionel Messi, while Demir himself has spoken of Turkey and Lille No.10, Yusuf Yazici, as a player he watches and learns from.
There are, naturally, areas to work on; most notably his endurance and physical strength, which he will need if he is to – as some believe he might – work backwards to become a deep-lying playmaker.
Right now, though, comparisons have been made to RB Leipzig forward Emil Forsberg, as well as ex-Argentina playmaker Pablo Aimar.
When Demir does eventually arrive in Spain, he will initially join up with the Barcelona B squad, though it remains to be seen how long that lasts. Only this past summer, Yusuf Demir (no relation) was signed from Rapid Vienna to play for the reserve side, but has been with the first team from the moment his plane from Austria landed.
Emre Demir, though, is used to waiting, having needed to be patient during the past two seasons at Kayserispor.
The club has been battling against relegation, leading to a turnover in managers that has negatively affected Demir’s development. He has started just six league matches despite his obvious talent, while this season he has managed just three minutes on the pitch thus far.
The majority of his football has, instead, come for Turkey’s youth sides, with Demir having reached U19 level.
“One of my biggest goals is to play for the national team at the highest level,” he told the Anadolu Agency. “I know that I have to work hard for this, and I believe I can achieve it.”
Demir will need that same belief when he joins up with Barcelona, but the signs are good that he can join the growing number of talented teenagers on whom the burden of winning in the post-Messi era will be placed upon.
That Demir looks a little like the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner might create some added pressure, but he is used to the expectation by now.