Few could deny that Galatasaray have taken a risk in buying Turkish international midfielder Ayhan Akman from Besiktas.
Ayhan’s ability has never been in doubt; ever since emerging at Gaziantepspor in the mid-1990s, he has dazzled with his mesmerising dribbling, speed and ability to improvise.
Unfortunately, he has also shown a lack of consistency and an infuriating capacity to drift out of games.
During his three years at Besiktas – between 1998 and this summer – the little midfielder was his typically unpredictable self. And while his cause was hardly helped by a string of injuries – he missed three months of last season alone after damaging an ankle in a freak training ground accident – it was no particular surprise when new German coach Christoph Daum labelled him surplus to requirements.
Ayhan not only failed to impress Daum but also a section of Besiktas fans, who were becoming increasingly disgruntled with his hit-or-miss tendencies.
This spiralled into a vicious hate campaign, which reached a head last spring. The anti-Ayhan forces were in ferment when they saw television images of him laughing on the bench during Besiktas’ 3-1 defeat by his old club Gaziantepspor. Shortly afterwards the midfielder was assaulted by a group of irate fans at Istanbul airport and had to be rescued by security staff.
‘Even if I don’t play, I am the one who is blamed and attacked,’ sighed Ayhan. ‘After every defeat the supporters choose to vent their anger on me. I cannot comprehend why they do these things.’
A sorry state of affairs, but it is no use Ayhan playing the innocent. The player has a well-formed reputation as one of Turkish football’s bad boys – there have been a number of nocturnal scrapes plus a six-month ban for failing a dope test in 1997.
Now, with his move to Gala, he has a chance for redemption, and certainly seems motivated to make the most of his opportunity. So keen was he to join the club that he cut short his honeymoon in order to enter into transfer negotiations.
‘With Hagi retiring and Okan and Emre going to Internazionale, Galatasaray have had to rebuild their midfield, and I’m delighted they thought of me,’ says Ayhan.
He is not the only one in search of rehabilitation at Gala. Alongside him will be that other great Turkish enfant terrible, Sergen Yalcin. Interesting times ahead.
Born February 23, 1977, in Inegol
Previous clubs Gaziantepspor, Besiktas
International debut February 1998, v Israel
International caps 6 (0 goals)