Super League transfer season heats up in earnest
Fenerbahçe has acquired Netherlands forward and winger Dirk Kuyt from Liverpool. (PHOTO EPA)
The footballing world is now knee deep in transfer season and clubs are bidding on the best candidates to bring them to the top next year.
There is plenty of gossip about who is going where and for how much. Galatasaray is trying to stay at the top even with the pressure that comes from being in the UEFA Champions League, while ravenous runner-up Fenerbahçe will stop at nothing to take the next title. Meanwhile, Beşiktaş is mired in financial hardship and Trabzon is trying to fill the looming hole that will be left if top scorer Burak Yılmaz gets snapped up.
Lions lie low
The champions of this year’s Spor Toto Super League, Galatasaray have opted to consider their choices carefully before buying up a bunch of fresh meat. “We aren’t hasty,” the club’s chairman Ünal Aysal told the press this week, highlighting that they were looking for only the best and were planning to wrap up any deals by June 24.
“We are trying to create depth in our team. Last year we were lucky, only playing in the league,” he explained. “This year, we will have to play on three fronts and we need to have enough manpower and energy for all of them,” he added.
Nevertheless, they have gotten two players so far. One is Dany Achille Nounkeu Tchounkeu, whom they recently bought from Gaziantepspor. The 26-year-old Cameroon national is bound to be a boon to the Lions’ defense come next year. Another recent acquisition came in the form of rented Toulouse forward Umut Bulut, who recently found the limelight with a shocking pair of goals against Portugal. His loan is for one year, with the option of buying. The Lions should be wary, however. As much he is praised for his performance, the 29-year-old does not always deliver.
These deals came to the chagrin of a Trabzonspor hot in pursuit of both players. Umut left Trabzonspor to pursue his dreams of playing in Europe last year and just announced that he was not interested in returning to Turkey, so it comes as no surprise that the Black Sea club was irritated at his most recent move. In fact, with the Lions’ acquisitions from Trabzon last year, some Trabzon fans have begun to complain that their team is becoming “Galatasaray’s backyard.”
Fener fueling the fire
Surrounded with names and transfer claims, runner-up Fenerbahçe has been more active than rivals Galatasaray so far. As usual, the Canaries have been linked with a vast list of footballers, including Emmanuel Adebayor, Kevin Gameiro, Mehmet Topal and Ryan Babel, and have secured Netherlands forward and winger Dirk Kuyt from Liverpool and 18-year-old Salih Uçan from Bucaspor. The moneyed club is likely to get a generous helping of players from the rest of its wish list, but only time will tell which ones will bite.
Kuyt is certainly an impressive catch. The 31-year-old has a fruitful career in clubs like Liverpool and Feyenoord, while pounding 24 goals into the net for his national team since 2004. He make an already formidable Canary defense all the more terrifying, though claims are that coach Aykut Kocaman’s plans are to bring together a more calm and focused team, getting rid of time bombs and firecrackers.
Valencia’s Topal and Tino Costa, both midfielders, are some of Fenerbahçe’s closer targets, and either would be a good fit for the club. Having lost Joseph Yobo, the Canaries are also looking for a good stopper to take his place. Candidates include Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Holland’s Khalid Boulahrouz.
Beşiktaş broke but buying
News of the Beşiktaş Black Eagles is largely of a different sort. Not only is the cash-strapped club asking its current players to sacrifice some of their salaries, it is also trying to sort out its coaching situation, calling up Mustafa Denizli, currently in Iran with Persepolis, to offer him a position in İstanbul. This creates a world of ambiguity for the team, as it is hard to buy players or plan a successful season without a coach.
Meanwhile, Ersan Gülüm was the first to accept a pay cut. “Our club truly needs sacrifice on the part of the players this year,” the lifetime Beşiktaş fan said. “Everybody knows what hard times we have gone through. Now Beşiktaş needs support and I want to do, I am doing, whatever I can,” he explained.
Trying to stretch its resources, the club signed a four-year contract with 21-year-old defender Berat Çetinkaya, 27-year-old midfielder Mehmet Akgün and 19-year-old Oğuzhan Özyakup, the Netherlands-born midfielder from Arsenal -- all low-profile players. The Black Eagles have also been linked with Belgium-born Murat Akın, who currently belongs to Kasımpaşa, İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor’s Pierre Webo and 23-year-old Bucaspor forward Emre Güral.
Güral ended up going to Trabzonspor, which will be sorely in need of a striker if goal king Yılmaz decides to move on. The Black Sea Storm also sought out a stopper in Souleymane “Sol” Bamba, the Ivory Coast national who was playing for Leicester City, while courting Gençlerbirliği’s Yasin Öztekin for midfield. The club has shown interest in Gaziantep’s Cenk Tosun and Serdar Kurtuluş, though nothing solid has yet come of it.
“We don’t have a specific number of players we are planning to buy,” Deputy Chairman Nevzat Şakar said on Thursday. “We going to make transfers that add to our team, not just make a show,” he added. The team’s fate hangs in the balance if it loses Yılmaz. Everything will depend on who replaces him.