While OM challenges Galatasaray, this Thursday in Istanbul, in the Europa League, Turkish journalist Alp Ulagay explains to us the long fall of football in his country.
Turkey’s big 3 struggling
“They are heavily in debt, very poorly managed and even find themselves in the middle of the rankings! Financial mismanagement is not new, it has been going on for some 20 years. When Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup in 2000, I remember France Football’s double-page spread on the Turkish club, which was called a “great champion in debt”. The 3 big clubs of Istanbul, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Besiktas, have even seen their debt increase in recent years due to the great depreciation of the Turkish lira.
From 2014 to 2021, clubs were allowed to sign 14 foreign players. They were all paid in euros… At the beginning of September, Radamel Falcao was still at Galatasaray with his salary of 9 million euros gross. It’s huge. Sofiane Feghouli is well paid at Galatasaray but he is at the end of his contract and will not be extended. Miralem Pjanic arrived at Besiktas but Barça pay 2/3 of the salary.
These big clubs are still subject to huge 15% interest. Fortunately, they managed to transfer their debt to Turkish Lira, which should be a plus. But, if there is no entry of capital into these clubs, it is going to be very difficult to have good players and they will lose ground on the clubs that work smarter. And, overall, in terms of results in the European Cup, it could be catastrophic in the coming years. “
No revolution in sight …
“Galatasaray recently changed its recruitment policy. They are betting on younger players, 22, 23, who could explode quickly. Unfortunately, there are few young Turkish prodigies. In 2014, with the rule of 14 foreign players, clubs abandoned the training of young people to hire stars. This brought down the quality of Turkish players. Young people did not have their chance, like a Kabak who did half a season at Galatasaray before going to Germany (Ozan Kabak had been recruited by Stuttgart). They go to Germany or the Netherlands to finish their training.
Football is not doing very well in Turkey. It is poorly managed and always has been. The clubs are associations, much like in Spain, and the members of the management are amateurs who try to manage the clubs. They are not leaders from the world of football, they are often rather young businessmen, passionate, ambitious, who try to manage but who will hurt their club by taking care of everything, recruiting up to the team. Except when it comes to Fatih Terim (returned to Galatasaray).
There should be financial control like what is done in France or England. But the control of the federation is very weak. The Süper Lig is managed directly by the federation via a committee elected by the professional clubs. These people do not attack the management of clubs. To revive the Turkish championship, new funds would be needed, coming from businessmen, but with budgetary discipline. “
Balotelli at Süper Lig’s nouveau riche
« Mario Balotelli plays Adana Demirspor this season. It is the 5th largest city in the country, near the Syrian border, and there have always been two big clubs in Adana. A businessman close to President Erdogan bought the club and invested heavily. The club went down to D2 but returned to Süper Lig with ambitions. Younès Belhanda was also recruited and Vincenzo Montella is the coach. All the money spent comes from the owner’s pocket.
Trabzonspor is the leader and will try to win his first league title in 38 years! Small clubs shine, like Hatayspor, very close to the Syrian border, and Alanyaspor, which are in the top 5 today.
Finally, there are two small peculiarities in the Turkish league today. Karagümrük, a small club from Istanbul, is having a good season with 4 Italian players (including Fabio Borini and Emiliano Viviano) and an Italian coach (Francesco Farioli). Also, there are 7 or 8 Greek players in the Süper Lig and it was unthinkable to welcome Turkish players in the 90s. Turkey and Greece have long been separated during the European Cup draws. “
Alp Ulagay has been offering us its expertise on Turkish football for several years. He is a graduate of the University of Galatasaray and of the… university of Grenoble. After working with many media in his country, he is now a sports correspondent (not just football) for international titles.
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