Friday, July 16, 2010
ESPNsoccernet: July 17, 1:17 PM UK
Signings stoke Turkish fire
With a new wave of followers in the wake of the one of the more interesting title stories last season, the Turkish league is continuing to make headlines that will raise its profile in the European game.
The success of Bursaspor in breaking down the established order in Turkey saw them become only the second club outside of Istanbul to win a Super Lig title, but now the so-called 'big boys' are fighting back and attempting to bolster their ranks with some of the continent's finest talents.
Having already had a bold bid of £16.7 million for Man City's Brazilian misfit Robinho rejected, deposed champions Besiktas are leading the way as they have spent £6.1 million on bringing in former Barcelona and Inter forward Ricardo Quaresma; German winger Roberto Hilbert from Stuttgart has also arrived, while they are also finalising deals for former Real Madrid duo Guti and Raul.
The club's new appeal is down, in no small part, to the fact that they announced ex-Real coach Bernd Schuster as their manager in June and the German boss brings with him a wealth of contacts as well as the experience of managing in one of the world's most high pressure environments.
Quaresma is certainly the kind of player that can make a difference to a club like Besiktas and, despite his previous failings at some of Europe's elite, he will be key to their title aspirations. Rather than his skill or pace with the ball, Quaresma's main criticisms have come from his temperament and commitment to his team's efforts. Schuster will certainly have his hands full in keeping the new star of Turkish football happy, but he may not be the only one to appease.
Guti has long been viewed as one of the best technical players at Real Madrid, but his well-publicised indiscretions off the pitch have seen his impact limited to cameo roles in recent years. Schuster has direct experience of dealing with his unique talent from his six months in Madrid, yet the challenge of ensuring that the 33-year-old keeps his mind focused on the pitch is a tough one. Raul, should he arrive as well, will be a far easier proposition.
But Besiktas' pursuit of some of Europe's top talent has, of course, come at a price. The revelations in Marca, that chairman Yildirim Demiroren has been funding some of the club's wages out of his own pocket have been met with fury by the Turkish media.
While his boast that he would meet Guti's personal demands himself are an insight into his own personal fortune, the feeling is that he has let the club down with his remarks - showing it up as being unable to raise its own revenue and putting himself, not the club, firmly in the spotlight.
Besiktas, according to the clubs Auditing Organisation, is alleged to have around £114 million worth of debt, with a large amount of the money owed to the chairman himself. For the supporters it is a delicate balancing act of pride in their club and the realistic steps needed to be taken to ensure that last year's fourth placed finish in the league is not repeated.
The other two clubs playing catch-up, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, have also made moves in the transfer market.
Gala snapped up Sunderland's combative midfielder Lorik Cana for around £5 million, tempting him to Turkey with the promise of being closer to his family and offering Champions League football; while Fener ensured they got their own tricky winger as they spent £4.6 million on Chelsea's Miroslav Stoch.
While both are decent signings, one feels that they will have to bring in a few other targets if they are to keep pace with Besiktas next season. The likes of Asamoah Gyan and Milos Krasic have been linked, but there is doubt over whether the Turkish sides can compete with some of the other names reported to be interested.
Ironically, the best signing of the Turkish summer so far could come in the form of Slovakia's star striker Robert Vittek, who joined the former home of Darius Vassell, Ankaragucu, for £1.7 million from Lille. Perhaps not the kind of player who will light up a league, but there could certainly be a few more stellar names arriving in the Turkey before the season kicks off.