Lions to start training June 27, but where are the players?

Sweden striker Johan Elmander (L), Trabzon free agents Selçuk İnan (C) and Ceyhun Gülselam are the only players the Lions have signed so far. The İstanbul club, however, needs to sign many more to make any headway next season.

June 14, 2011, Tuesday/ 16:23:00

Galatasaray announced on Monday that all players must report to the club’s Florya Metin Oktay facilities on June 27 for pre-season training, which will herald the beginning of the 2011-12 season for the Lions -- as Galatasaray is popularly called.

The team will then travel to the Austrian town of Wörgl on July 2 for its training camp’s  first phase and will return to İstanbul on July 2 and almost immediately hit the road for Germany for the second phase. The Lions, the club said, will play warm-up games both in Austria and Germany, and the match schedules will be announced at a later date.

Fair enough, but one cannot help but ask with which players Galatasaray will start its preseason training. Galatasaray followers were expecting some big-name signings after their team came to the brink of relegation at one point this past season, sent three underachieving coaches packing, finished eighth in the league, wound up winning nothing at all and missed out on all of Europe next season. The general consensus among football pundits in this country was that the election of wealthy businessman Ünal Aysal as chairman and the rehiring of the no-nonsense Fatih “The Emperor” Terim as coach were a boon to the team. In other words everyone was expecting moneybags Aysal to open the club’s coffers and acquire players who would help Galatasaray bring back the spirit of 2000, when the team took Europe by storm and won both the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.

Inaction is the word

The saddest thing is that Galatasaray has not been very active on either the domestic or the international front. Apart from Sweden striker Johan Elmander from English Premier League side Bolton and two Trabzonspor free agents, Selçuk İnan and Ceyhun Gülselam, the Lions have done practically nothing.

There are reports Galatasaray is trying to swap Pristina-born Albanian central defender Lorik Cana, who has already been declared persona non grata, with Lazio’s Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Nestor Muslera Micol.

Elmander, İnan and Gülselam are not bad players, but they alone are not good enough to turn Galatasaray into the “dreaded” team it once was. Muslera, if he is eventually swapped, is not a bad keeper at all. The Uruguayan’s impressive season saw him consolidate his position as the Roman club’s first choice keeper in the 2009-10 season. He also saved two penalties to help Lazio beat Juventus 6-5 in a shootout in the final of the Coppa Italia.

Maybe, just maybe, Aysal and Terim did not watch Galatasaray play this past season. This is a team that lost 16 matches in 34 outings -- a scandalous new club record. The Lions are therefore in need of players in all positions -- goal, defense, midfield and upfront.

No time to lose

Colombian keeper Robinson Zapata Montano has already been fired, and he is now a free agent. Aykut Erçetin and Ufuk Ceylan, who concede goals like water through a sieve, are among the worst goalkeepers in the land. They are unreliable, to say the least, and so Galatasaray has to solve its goalkeeping dilemma as a matter of urgency.

At the back Servet Çetin is OK, but he needs a helper, and that cannot be injury-prone Beşiktaş reject Gökhan Zan, nicknamed “Cam Adam” (glass man). In midfield, captain-playmaker Arda Turan is the only player worth mentioning. However, he spent most of last season in the club’s infirmary, and so there are big question marks about his fitness.

Upfront, there is no one. The contracts of injury-prone Czech Milan Baros and Aussie Harold “Harry” Kewell were not extended, meaning they are no longer desired.

Without mincing words, Galatasaray needs good players -- and plenty of them -- not just one or two free agents. Aysal and the team must dig deep into their pockets -- after all that’s why they were elected -- and provide the funds needed to remake Galatasaray.

And this must be done with haste to give the new players ample time to blend with their new team. Judging from Galatasaray’s horrendous performance this past season, there is just no time for Aysal and his cronies to pause or ponder because tomorrow may be too late.

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