What's Going On in Turkish Football: Part Deux

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What's Going On in Turkish Football: Part Deux
(Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

On Oct. 20, 2008 I wrote an article, this is the sequel.

The past article started with the introduction upon Turkish Football League history, focusing on the three horsemen, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş, along with the only other champion outside Istanbul, which is Trabzonspor, and wrapping up with why the nation's league is so impotent.

Only seven game weeks had past then, now it is the 26th game week this weekend, after the short break for international call-ups. Beşiktaş was leading the league when I wrote that article, Trabzonspor was trailing. Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe were a little dropped back.

Now, with nine weeks to go Sivasspor, last year's surprise pack is back on top again with 50 points. Beşiktaş, who sacked their manager Ertuğrul Sağlam (he is now the manager of Bursaspor) in between the two articles is one point behind Sivas.

Trabzon is still hanging up on the top three with 46 points while Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray are fourth and fifth respectively with 44 points each.

Last year's end of season league table showed Galatasaray ahead of Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş and Sivasspor with six points each. The reigning champion has lost only three games and a total of 23 points out of 102 possible. Today the league leader Sivasspor has already lost 3 games and a total of 25 points.

Even if they win all their remaining games they will not be able to beat last year's score, and their winning all their games is almost miraculous.

When Fenerbahçe won the league in 2006-07 season with only 70 points, it was a record low for the last 13 years, the manager Zico was heavily criticised.

Since the league switched to three-points-for-a-win system on '87-'88 season only four time has this happened. 66, 69 and 70 were the points that was enough for the championship by Galatasaray, Beşiktaş and again Galatasaray, on seasons '92-'93, '90-'91 and '93-'94 seasons respectively.

The two of three horsemen sacked their managers mid-season. Galatasaray sacked Skibbe after a 5-2 home defeat by a relegation candidate, while Beşiktaş was much less patient that, Ertuğrul Sağlam was shown the way out after being knocked out by Metalist Kharkiv on the UEFA Cup qualification games.

Galatasaray hired their legendary captain, Bülent Korkmaz who does not have a bright managerial past while Beşiktaş chose Mustafa Denizli, who led Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe to the championship in the past and is the only local manager to achieve this at Fenerbahçe.

Fenerbahçe is still going on with Luis Aragones even though rumours of his job security are always on the headlines.

The rumours about the Grandpa goes on saying that he has a huge compensation clause if he is to be fired before contract expiry and that clause it what's keeping him in. Already the media are looking for replacements, even the Italian media are suggesting Mancini may take his place if he is to be fired.

The club, as usual, denies those rumours.

Last two seasons showed that the three horsemen are dropping back. Even though they somehow finish on the top spots they struggle more and more as the days pass by. This leads to questions of course.

Fenerbahçe, by hiring Aragones, pushed aside what Daum built and Zico built even more upon. The two managers from two distinctly different mentalities had found a tasteful recipe at the end of a five-year period.

When Zico lost the league last season almost everyone knew he wouldn't last long and it was the end of his contract anyway. The board (chairman Aziz Yıldırım to be precise!) did not do much to keep him.

Instead they lost almost all the summer waiting for Aragones' Spain to be knocked out of Euro 2008. As you know, Spain won the trophy, which means they stayed in the competition 'til the end!

With the arrival of Aragones things change dramatically. Along with Zico, Mehmet Aurelio, who now plays for Betis in La Liga left the club and the absence of his stealing abilities are heavily missed in the midfield. Emre Belözoğlu, a Galatasaray icon, was signed from Newcastle United.

His arrival too caused a bit of a shock since Fenerbahçe fans do not like him at all, in person. Some still tried to settle him in their conscious for usefulness. He still lacks the overall approval of fans.

Daniel Güiza, the top goalscorer of La Liga last season was brought in with a record signing fee from Mallorca, but the "sad man" has scored less than the central defender Diego Lugano so far! Fenerbahçe managed to play "well" in difficult games but lost many unexpected points in many games in which they were the favorites.

The team, clearly lacks the motivation for those games and are far away from showing what they're capable of. The remaining nine weeks certainly are full of many things, but a belief and hope in their championship is not one of those by the fans.

Their performance in the Champions League is another thing they wish to forget after last year's quarter finals in the same competition. The team failed to win a single game in six group matches.

Last year's champion Galatasaray hired Skibbe at the beginning. His Leverkusen knocked out Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup. His ability and capability was always the main focus of criticisms.

Galatasaray squad, one of the most expensive in club's history is struggling in the league, knocked out by Steau Bucharesti in Champions Leage qualifications, hardly managed to qualify from group stage in UEFA cup, knocked out Bordeaux in a miraculous manner but Hamburg ended their dreams.

Right before second leg game against Bordeaux Skibbe was fired and Bülent Korkmaz was hired. The knocking out of Bordeaux gave him some credit, which was soon to be taken away after the Hamburg game and the league games. His quarrel with the team's naughty boy play maker Cassio Lincoln is another point of discussion.

Beşiktaş, who had difficult times in the early season sacked their manager too. Mustafa Denizli's league sheet in Beşiktaş was not much brighter when the seaon's first half came to a close.

But as soon as the second half began Beşiktaş reached a top form and climbed back on top. They are now the strongest championship candidates by many. The arrival of Fabian Ernst in the January transfer window definitely gave them the solidness in the midfield which they were lacking.

The consistent goal scoring performance by Nobre and Bobo, accompanied by Holosko is keeping them up and coming.

Trabzonspor also began the season with high expectations. They hired Ersun Yanal, a former national team manager, who is a tactical genius. They refined their squad with new transfers and set their sights on the championship.

Even though they had a strong starting line up, they are lacking squad depth which causes an up and down performance from week to week, depending on injuries or bans.

Sivasspor, the last two years championship chaser are once again on the top while approaching the end of season. Last year manager Bülent Uygun's effort to push away the championship pressure to protect his players did not succeed. They lost it near the finish line.

This year, with last year's experience they look stronger. They preserved their squad, even strengthen it with some more and they have a fixture advantage on their side.

Their championship would be a first in league history but would not surprise much as it would last year if they managed. Now they are mostly respected by the other teams and nation's football media.

Whoever wins the league, it will be considered normal, as long as one of the five above does it. Sivasspor doing it will still be different from the rest. And it will mean more than just an outsider winning the league. It will cause a long hard look at the mirror for the three horsemen.

They are the most popular clubs in Turkey, they have the hardcore fans all over the country which makes the away games like home games, their games are always live on TV, the football programmes, the newspaper, the Web sites are all about them, they spent the most money and still they fail to win the championship, yet succeed in European competitions.

Sivasspor winning the league may cause a serious stir up. Or they spoil themselves, sell and buy players without further planning and get lost and the infamous three get back up, without much further effort. Everyone is still curious...See you nine weeks later, in part three.

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