Barcelona have completed the signing of Yusuf Demir on loan from Rapid Vienna with an option to buy.
The 18-year-old winger has earned a fine reputation at home after breaking into the Rapid team so young and has been dubbed the ‘Austrian Messi’ for his style of play and stature.
He will now hope to link up with Messi himself, providing the Argentina star does sign a new deal at Camp Nou.
Barca have struck a deal to sign Demir on loan for 2021-22 at a cost of €500,000 and they will have the option to sign him permanently for €10million should he impress, the Catalan club said.
Similarly, Demir has also agreed a new contract at Rapid until 2023, meaning they will not lose him on a free transfer next year if Barca opt against making his switch to LaLiga permanent.
Demir’s signing falls in line with Barca’s recent transfer policy of mostly targeting young players, with Sergino Dest, Francisco Trincao, Eric Garcia, Emerson Royal, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong brought in well before their peak.
The low fees involved and the fact Demir will not demand exorbitant wages are both important factors given Barca’s well-publicised financial problems and the fact they are reportedly required to slash their wage expenditure by 40 per cent in line with LaLiga salary cap rules.
Nevertheless, Demir will be seen as a wise yet low-risk move given his burgeoning reputation, which is built around his ability to excite.
While he only started in six of his 25 Austrian Bundesliga appearances (825 minutes) last season, he finished the campaign with a highly respectable seven goal involvements, which averages out at one every 117.9 minutes – only 10 players to play at least 825 minutes had a better record.
Despite only getting the one assist, Demir was a regular source of creativity when he did feature, as highlighted by the fact his 2.7 key passes per 90 was the sixth highest among those to play at least 825 minutes.
But arguably his most notable asset, and the one that inspires the comparison with Messi, is his ability on the ball.
A dynamic and exciting player, Demir attempted 6.3 dribbles per 90 minutes on average, a figure matched by no one who featured for more than 108 minutes last term.
Similarly, he was successful with 3.8 dribble attempts per game, which was also a league-high, and it was that kind of flair that has helped him realise a childhood dream.
“For eight years I was able to learn everything and develop myself at Rapid,” he told the Austrian club’s website. “That’s one of the reasons why I extended my contract for another year.
“I am incredibly grateful to every supervisor, every player and everyone else. With the move to FC Barcelona, an incredibly big childhood dream comes true.
“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.”
While the Austria international looks likely to initially feature more for Barcelona B, he will immediately link up with the first-team squad for pre-season training, allowing him to stake his claim.