Despite last season’s triumph, not everyone was full of praise for championship winners Galatasaray. Much of the credit for their success can be put down to coach Fatih Terim’s team-building flair, the steadiness of Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera, the box-to-box class of Selcuk Inan and the craft of Sweden’s Johan Elmander up front. But where, asked the critics, is the individual quality and flair?
Terim has tried to address this during the summer with the addition of Real Madrid’s immensely versatile Hamit Altintop and Cameroon centre-back Dany Nounkeu from Gaziantepspor. His big signing, however, was Trabzonspor goal-machine Burak Yilmaz, who topped the Super Lig scoring charts with 33 last term – more than twice as many as anyone else.
Interestingly, Terim has also taken a gamble on down-on-his-luck striker Umut Bulut, who following a big-money move from Trabzonspor to Toulouse failed to convince in Ligue 1.
Second place in the league and victory in the Turkish Cup last time out satisfied few Fenerbahce followers after a season dominated by a match-fixing scandal that saw the club banned from the Champions League.
Notable additions include Dirk Kuyt from Liverpool, Valencia’s defensive midfielder Mehmet Topal, Kayserispor left-back Hasan Ali Kaldirim and national team centre-half Egemen Korkmaz, who after running down his contract with Besiktas headed across town on a free.
Brazilian skipper Alex remains a tremendous playmaker but at the age of 34, he cannot go on for ever and Fener coach Aykut Kocaman may have to use him in shorter bursts.
Over on the Black Sea, the ability of Trabzonspor to remain in the upper echelons of the league without goalscorer extraordinaire Burak will be severely put to the test. Coach Senol Gunes has started the rebuilding process, bringing in Leicester City centre-back Sol Bamba and the midfielder Soner Aydogdu from Genclerbirligi. A deal is also in place to sign Copenhagen’s Senegalese front man Dame N’Doye.
These are harsh times at elite Istanbul club Besiktas. Not only have they been banned from European competition for a year because of financial irregularities, their huge debt – said to total upwards of £150million – has forced them into a painful age of cut-price acquisitions and the use of academy graduates. A transitional period beckons and much will be riding on their latest crop of recruits such as Julien Escude from Sevilla, former Arsenal reserve midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup and wing-back Olcay Sahan from Kaiserslautern.
Among those clubs with ambitions to mix it with the best, Black Sea outfit Orduspor, who are coached by ex-Valencia and Internazionale boss Hector Cuper, have made a clutch of impressive buys, bringing in Romanian striker Bogdan Stancu from Galatasaray, Brazilian central defender Roversio from Osasuna and Spanish striker David Barral from Gijon. Also looking upwards are Kayserispor – now led by the former Georgia forward Shota Arveladze – the ever-resilient Eskisehirspor, Istanbul BB and Sivasspor, who are coached by former Turkey winger Riza Calimbay.
Riddled with money troubles, Bursaspor face an uncertain future, as do Ankara side Genclerbirligi who have simply lost too many key players of late. Gaziantepspor, Karabukspor, Mersin and Antalyaspor will be happy to keep their first division status and the same goes for the three promoted sides: second division champions Akhisarspor, runners-up Elazigspor and play-off victors Kasimpasa.
Eight years out of the elite, Elazigspor might be the best equipped of all the inductees, having brought in former France full-back Julien Faubert from West Ham and Herve Tum, the Cameroon striker with Champions League experience at Basle.
by Nick Bidwell