The Turkey national squad left Madrid's Bernabeu stadium on Saturday in a dejected mood following their side's 1-0 defeat against Spain in the biggest game of the night in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ European qualifying Group 5.
That result meant the Crescent Stars slid to third in the table behind the seemingly invincible Spaniards and second-placed Bosnia-Herzegovina, leaving them in dire need of a result against the group leaders and current European champions in Istanbul on Wednesday. One man the Turks are pinning their hopes on to get their qualification campaign back on track is 22-year-old midfielder Arda Turan. The Galatasaray youth team product is hailed as Turkey's brightest young talent and is being touted from all corners as a star of the future.
A winner of the Turkish title and Super Cup last season, Turan has been a mainstay in coach Fatih Terim's international squad for around two-and-a-half years and starred at last summer's UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. FIFA.com spoke exclusively with the player about his desire to move abroad, South Africa 2010 and what is so unique about Turkish football.
FIFA.com: Mr Turan, are you Turkish football's latest superstar?
Arda Turan: I'm not a star, just a good footballer and, most importantly, I'm a team player. I always give 100 per cent and I'm constantly trying to improve my game.
Do you want to stay in Turkey or would you like to play abroad one day?
I'm definitely planning on playing in one of Europe's top leagues at some point. It would be a great chance for me to represent my country and further my career.
Are there any teams in particular who you would like to play for?
Liverpool or Juventus would be great.
What is so special about the Turkish league and what is it like playing for an historic club like Galatasaray?
It's a fascinating league, but sometimes the pitches we have to play on aren't great and that doesn't make things easy. At Galatasaray, winning the title is always a must, and being part of a team like that means that you are constantly under pressure to succeed and have to possess a will to win.
The Turkish fans always create a fantastic atmosphere in the stadiums. Why is that?
The people in Turkey are extremely passionate and would never give up on the team they love.
Turkey currently lie in third place behind Spain and Bosnia-Herzegovina. You've played in all five qualifying matches so far and scored against the latter. What does it mean to you to play for your country?
I'm a very patriotic person and have plenty to thank my country for, so pulling on the national strip means a lot to me. It's a great honour.
What would it mean to you to play in your first ever FIFA World Cup?
All the greatest footballers in history made their names at the World Cup, so I think it would be a big opportunity for me.
Turkey did not qualify for Germany 2006 but then made it to the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2008. If they do manage to qualify for South Africa 2010, what do you think they can realistically hope to achieve?
Our minimum goal has to be to survive the group stage. After that, provided we take each game as it comes, we have every chance of improving on our semi-final finish in 2002.
At EURO 2008, Turkey bowed out at the last-four stage to Germany after Philipp Lahm scored a late winner in a tight encounter. Was that the worst moment of your career so far?
The worst moment of my career was when I got shown a yellow card in the quarter-final, leaving me to watch the Germany game from the stands.
Turkey are currently 11th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings. What is holding the team back from moving further up the list?
The more experience we gain, the more we will improve.
Do you have a role model and who would you like to swap shirts with?
Maradona is my favourite player because he was just so talented and I also admire Zinedine Zidane for his skills on the pitch. From today's players, it would be nice to swap shirts with Lionel Messi.
Who is the best midfielder in the world at the moment?
Do you have any plans for life after football?
I would stay involved in football in some capacity, probably in the coaching side of things.
What are your goals for the rest of 2009?
To retain the league title with Galatasaray and win as many games as I can with the national team.