Emre Mor is just 18, has lived all his life in Denmark and only received Turkish citizenship this year after receiving authorisation from his jailed father.
Yet the fleet-footed winger, unknown to most Turkish football fans at the start of 2016, has in just weeks become one of the great hopes for Turkey at the European Championship finals.
Mor’s reputation grew again on Tuesday when Borussia Dortmund signed him from Danish side Nordsjaelland.
The teenager said he was “very honoured and happy to be part of the Dortmund family and to play in one of the biggest clubs in the world.”
The integration into the national side of Mor, who despite his Turkish parentage is far from fluent in the language, is a potent sign of Turkey’s increasing success in tapping the talents of the diaspora.
Many in Turkey wistfully dream of a world-beating fantasy national side including Mesut Ozil of Arsenal and Ilkay Gundogan, newly signed with Manchester City, who both slipped through the net and play for Germany.
But with the likes of Mor and Mannheim-born star Hakan Calhanoglu turning out for the Milli Takim, the trend is starting to turn.
‘Out of the ordinary’
Mor, who had played for FC Nordsjaelland since 2015, appeared for Denmark’s youth side but switched his allegiance this year following intervention by Turkey coach Fatih Terim.
He made a single appearance for Turkey under 21s before making his full debut in a friendly against Montenegro, thrilling Turkish fans with quicksilver runs down the wing and virtuoso passing.
Terim rewarded the youngster with a place in the Euro 2016 squad for France.
“The reason that Emre is here is that he is a player who is out of the ordinary,” said Terim.
He acknowledged there had been “struggles behind the scenes” over the change of citizenship. “It was a difficult process but I think it was worth it.”
Mor, a fan of social media, burst with national pride on Instagram over his debut. “This is a special day and a unforgettable day for me. I love my country.”
His name grew with the interest from across Europe, including Liverpool. Before Dortmund won the contest, Turkish fans had argued between themselves over which Istanbul club he should join and even his mum intervened to say he was a Galatasaray fan.
“We have never seen something like this before,” said former Turkish international turned pundit Hakan Unsal.
Inevitably reactions from Denmark, where Mor learnt his trade and played for Lyngby BK from 2006-2015, have been less enthusiastic.
“It is unfortunate that we lose such a player, because Denmark is a small country,” Denmark coach Age Hareide admitted. “We can’t do very much about it. It is very much about the player’s own feelings,” he told Danish news agency Ritzau.
Mor himself countered the feeling that he let down the country of his birth. “Some will accept me for the person I am, some won’t...
“Some accept my decision of choosing, to play for the Turkish national team, some don’t,” he wrote on Instagram, using the hashtag #hatersgonnahate.
‘Saved as a player’
The road to international football has not always been easy for Mor, who grew up in Bronshoj, a working class area on the outskirts of Copenhagen.
His father is serving a four-month jail sentence in Denmark for a driving offence and had to sign off on the papers for the citizenship from his cell.
The player suffered a serious injury in 2013 while a plan to join French outfit Saint Etienne did not work out and his temperament has caused concern.
Per Holm, Denmark’s under-16 coach said Mor’s temper and lack of patience could at one point have cost him his career.
“I think Lyngby at one point concluded that they were not quite able to handle him and that he had to go somewhere else if he were to be saved as a player,” he told football magazine Tipsbladet in March.