All change at Galatasaray

Posted by Eliot Rothwell

Fatih Terim before Gala suffered a 6-1 home hammering at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League.GettyImagesFatih Terim before Gala suffered a 6-1 home hammering at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League.

When fans flooded onto the pitch and attacked riot police at the Istanbul derby last weekend, it appeared that Turkish football had fastened upon its talking point for the week ahead.

Yet within a few days of guiding Galatasaray to victory in that derby, manager Fatih Terim had been sacked, following a club board meeting. The fact that Terim has now left the club is perhaps the only concrete outcome of this week's internal wrangling at Galatasaray.

The details of, and the motivations for, the dismissal are wrapped in a complex web of intrigue that becomes harder to unravel with every quote, statement and briefing released by those close to the club, and those who made the decision.

From the breaking of the news on Tuesday, the outpouring of shock was mixed with confusion -- and even disgust. "The board held a meeting today regarding the future of Fatih Terim; the board voted in favour of terminating his contract," read the statement, with the initial spread of rumours suggesting that Terim had been informed of the board's decision by his daughter, who was watching rolling news on television.

As the board meeting took place, Terim, affectionately known as "The Emperor," was holding a training session at Galatasaray's state-of-the-art training complex in Florya. With that in mind, mournful fans began to gather to salute a manager who in his current spell has led the club to consecutive titles, with a further four consecutive titles and a UEFA Cup from 1996-2000. The tears rolling down Terim's face as he was driven out of the club indicate that this decision was indeed a very one-sided one.

Much of the feature writing, then, from the breaking of the news stories, focuses on the motivations of the board in taking this decision. Derision as to the way the announcement was handled is almost universal, but theories abound as to why the empire chose to strike back.

Usually, and obviously, the manager of a high-profile club in any league is dismissed when the results turn sour. Even here, though, there are more grey areas than black and white.

Galatasaray's form in the league currently stands as played four, won one and drawn three, making the club unbeaten at this early stage of the season, yet also placed tenth in the league, with disappointing draws to Eskisehirspor and Antalyaspor. That table, however, fails to take into account the abandoned match against Besiktas, that Galatasaray were leading 2-1, having come from a goal behind. The abandonment, though, means that we are as of yet waiting for the result to be finalised, with Turkish regulations usually awarding a 3-0 win to the innocent party. This would take Galatasaray up to fourth place, with nine points from five games and only three points behind leaders Besiktas.

Away from the league, though, Terim has faced a momentous problem. The 6-1 obliteration at the Turk Telekom Arena by Real Madrid was described by Terim as "such a shame," whilst admitting that "the result could have been worse." The apology to the fans and the insistence that "the blame is on me" did little to quash the anger of fans as they travelled home on the metro that night, with one cursing and lamenting the result as the worst Galatasaray performance he had ever witnessed. These results, though, don't appear to be enough to destabilise a club legend, currently chasing a third consecutive title, and here is where the world of political struggles, rumour and intrigue comes to the surface.

It is though Fatih Terim was not completely on board with the signing of Wesley Sneijder.
GettyImagesIt is though Fatih Terim was not completely on board with the signing of Wesley Sneijder.

The key master of this intrigue appears to be president Unal Aysal, with "Unal Aysal resign" trending on Twitter in the aftermath of Terim's dismissal. Aysal was elected president in 2011 and personally brought in Terim to shift the tide away from mediocrity to success. Having been educated, along with many other board members, at the prestigious and Francophone school Lycee Galatasaray, from which the club takes its name, there are murmurs in Turkey that the president has, for some time, been seeking a way to appoint a more European and, in his eyes, sophisticated manager from the west of the continent. Roberto Mancini is thought to be first choice, with Roberto Di Matteo among a list of potential backups.

Differences in the world view of Aysal and Terim, however, are not the only clashes that have played out at Galatasaray in the past season. The board's briefing is that the manager turned down a new two-year contract, though that is disputed by those close to Terim. What is clear, however, is that a growing rift between the president and manager has been evident since January.

The initial cause of this January divide was the signing of Wesley Sneijder -- a marquee Champions League winner who would add a healthy dose of shirt sales and international prestige. The president wanted his man, yet the manager wasn't convinced, subscribing to the view of many at Europe's top clubs that the Dutch playmaker would be unable to replicate his best form and therefore wasn't worth building an already successful team around.

The widening of the rift continued, with Aysal referring to Terim in a board meeting as a "member of staff" in a bout of linguistic top trumps. Yet it was perhaps Terim's agreeing to take over as the Turkish national team coach, albeit only on an interim basis, that turned the rift into a chasm. Terim now, perhaps predictably, is in talks to take over the national team position full-time, after being outmanoeuvred by Aysal and not rescued by the other board members.

The Emperor, his hand forced by political shadow play, gave his final speech to the players in which he told them, in true Gloria Gaynor style, they will survive and they will be the champions once more. The web of intrigue comes full circle though, as, being interim manager of the national team, part of Terim's remit may be to attend the Galatasaray-Rizespor fixture this weekend. A guest of the club, if not the president.

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