Galatasaray a coming force
Published: 14.03.13 / Written by: David Gold
As Europe’s nouveau riche, led by Manchester City, Paris St Germain and Anzhi Makhachkala, rise up, there is one side whose progress has gone relatively unnoticed until recently.
Turkish outfit Galatasaray are the champions of their country, leading the way again this year and still going in the Champions League.
In January, they signed Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba. That was an announcement that this team are on the rise, that they have the money and backing behind them to be a genuine European force, and lead Turkey’s resurgence. Turkey is a country that is on the rise in football terms, but its teams have had problems of late. A match fixing scandal hit the country in 2011 and implicated most teams. The only major side not implicated were Galatasaray, interestingly. The Istanbul giants also have a brand new stadium, thanks in part to the generosity of the government, spending taxpayer money to construct the new Ataturk Arena, which according to statistics, is the loudest in Europe. That echoes what Gary Neville once said about Galatasaray being the noisiest team he has ever played away against.
It is easy to ignore the collection of talent they have assembled in Istanbul. Burak Yilmaz is a star in the making, and is the joint top scorer in the Champions League this season. Johan Elmander is a useful forward, whilst Umut Bulut is on loan from Toulouse. Emmanuel Eboue is there, as is Selcuk Inan and Felipe Melo, Albert Riera and Hamit Altintop. Galatasaray have been signing big players from big clubs. Players have arrived from Juventus, Lazio, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Arsenal and Liverpool. This is a team going places.
With their finances on the up and a genuine history behind them, they are a bit different from some rivals. Unlike Manchester City or Chelsea, Zenit St Petersburg or even Paris St Germain, Galatasaray is a name steeped in history. Turkey’s most successful club, they are the aristocrats of the country’s football.
Owner Unal Aysal is an energy magnate with a fortune of €380 million, and this gives the club a huge fund from which to draw on to fund more signings like Sneijder. In Fatih Terim, they have an experienced and wise coach who can guide them through these years of development and into a genuine force in Europe.
The problem Terim now has is adapting his team to fit Sneijder and Drogba. Drogba’s signing should fit reasonably easily. In the 4-4-2 system that Galatasaray play, there is room for Drogba to play alongside Yilmaz or another forward. But the problem is to do with Sneijder. Where does he fit? He seems a football anachronism, although he is undoubtedly talented. But not one prone to tracking back, he can’t really fit into a modern 4-4-2 as a winger so easily, although that seems the best place to put him, and where he has been played by Terim. But then he leaves a team without width and dynamism on one flank, weakening them. He can’t play in the centre of midfield because a two is easily outnumbered by a three. The only way he could fit in is if the system changes to a 4-2-3-1, with Sneijder in his favourite playmaking role behind a centre forward. That would seem ideal for him, but he could still be exposed by his lack of tracking back.
These are the problems you have when making high profile glamour signings. But Terim will surely be delighted to have such problems, as he plots the path of one of Europe’s coming forces.