Will Besiktas be able to hang on to Turkish striker Ilhan Mansiz now that he has returned from the World Cup as a fully-fledged international marksman?
Thanks to his golden goal winner against Senegal in the quarter-final and two more expertly taken goals as Turkey edged out South Korea 3-2 in the third-place play-off, the 26-year-old has become a tempting target for clubs from Spain, Italy and Germany.
But according to Besiktas vice-president Yildirim Demirorean, he is strictly off limits. “It’s natural that a lot of clubs want him,” says Demirorean. “He was the (joint) top scorer in the Turkish League last season and had a great World Cup. But we have no desire to do business. He’s not for sale. Ilhan is the focal point of the team. Our aim for next season is to win the Turkish title in our centenary year, and his goalscoring ability will be vital.”
Like many of the current Turkish squad, Ilhan Mansiz was born and raised in Germany, hailing from Kempten in Bavaria. As a youngster he played up front for Munich amateur sideTurkgucu and Third Division Augsburg, but after an unsuccessful trial for Bundesliga side Koln, he opted to move to Turkey in early 1998.
After touting himself at a number of clubs, he was taken on by Samsunspor. He did not make any great impact at first, but as his movement and skills improved, so did his finishing. Ilhan averaged the decent tally of 11 goals over the 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons, on the back of which he earned a move to Besiktas in summer 2001.
The club’s then coach, German Christoph Daum, is a master of making good players even better, and the hours he spent schooling Ilhan in the art of goalscoring certainly paid off. Daum was sacked at the end of the season, but in Ilhan, he left quite a legacy.
“Ilhan was always keen to improve, and often I gave him extra sessions to work on his shooting, passing and heading,” says Daum. “It’s good to see how he has progressed. Apart from the third-place game, Turkey always used him as a substitute, but soon he will be a certain starter.”
The key for Ilhan will be how he copes with his new-found celebrity. With football fans agog at his scoring exploits and a legion of female admirers in love with his looks, Turkey’s answer to David Beckham willhave to tread carefully.
Born August 10, 1975, in Kempten, Germany
Previous clubs Turkgucu (Ger), Augsburg (Ger), Samsunspor
International debut October 2001, v Moldova
International caps 12 (5 goals)