Since being founded in 1959, there have only ever been five winners of the Turkish Süper Lig, and yet again it appears the big names are massive favourites for the upcoming season.
With a new visionary chairman in Ali Koç, coupled with the coup of manager Philip Cocu from PSV Eindhoven, Fenerbahçe look to have turned a corner. They pleasantly surprised to finish runners-up last time out, and with Andre Ayew joining alongside top prospects Barış Alıcı, Berke Özer and Ferdi Kadıoğlu, the Yellow Canaries look well stocked to kick on.
The only issue could be a lack of goals, with Fernandão going to Saudi Arabia and Vincent Janssen returning to Tottenham after an indifferent loan spell.
Galatasaray & Başakşehir
On the other side are reigning champions Galatasaray, who haven’t really strengthened the side that won Fatih Terim his seventh league title last term. Japan’s Yuto Nagatomo, who was on loan from Inter Milan for the second half of last season, is the only notable addition alongside Everton loanee Henry Onyekuru. This has augmented an already strong spine featuring Fernando Muslera, Maicon, Sofiane Feghouli, Younes Belhanda and last season’s top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis, and Gala will run their rivals close once again.
Third last time around and soon to face up with Burnley in the Europa League, Başakşehir are another club who have failed to really strengthen. Their squad, featuring the likes of former Premier League stalwarts Gaël Clichy and Emmanuel Adebayor, is ageing, but with the tactics of Abdullah Avcı in place, it would be no surprise to see the municipal side run the establishment close.
Beşiktaş & Trabzonspor
Of the top four sides, Beşiktaş have arguably had the worst window. A year ago they were reigning champions, but that feels a long time ago now. This summer, the likes of Duško Tošić, goalkeeper Fabri and Talisca, arguably the Süper Lig’s most talented player, have followed Cenk Tosun out the door. These holes have yet to be filled, and with further speculation surrounding Álvaro Negredo, Domagoj Vida and Pepe, I honestly can’t see Beşiktaş getting near.
Trabzonspor are the best of the rest historically in Turkey, but they too have lost key men. Midfield anchor Okay Yokuslu to Celta Vigo is the biggest loss, with Fabián Castillo and Matúš Bero also leaving the Black Sea Port. Defensively they look light, and will rely heavily on young talent Yusuf Yazıcı and club icon Burak Yılmaz to keep them up the table.
Kayserispor & Göztepe
Kayserispor have made some smart signings in Bernard Mensah, Bilal Başaçıkoğlu and Tjaronn Chery whilst keeping hold of Turkish international Deniz Türüç. Sivasspor too have strengthened and kept hold of talented winger Emre Kılınç. A push for a Europa League spot is not beyond either side. A potential dark horse is newly promoted Ankaragücü, who have made some shrewd acquisitions in Bakary Koné, Tiago Pinto and Youness Mokhtar.
Göztepe should be all good to stay up after buying sensibly, as should Yeni Malatyaspor with their impressive capture of Mitchell Donald from Red Star Belgrade. Elsewhere Antalyaspor and Konyaspor will be hoping to avoid repeats of their troubled seasons last time out, whilst Akhisarspor’s season depends on how long their Europa League campaign lasts.
Alanyaspor and Kasımpaşa both possess fairly average squads, but both have surprisingly kept hold of star names Emre Akbaba and Mahmoud Trezeguet. Their star quality will raise the rest of the squad and should have them safe. A season of worry could be ahead however for Bursaspor, with the 2010 champions having lost star man Moussa Sow.
Arguably the most vulnerable are the other two promoted sides. Rizespor have signed extremely well, bringing in Aminu Umar and Musa Çağıran from relegated Osmanlispor, but it remains to be seen if they can shake off that losing mentality and help their new club. Erzurumspor meanwhile are playing their first ever season in the top flight, and the side from an area famous for its skiing will be lucky not to get caught on a slippery slope.
5 players to watch
- Berke Özer (Fenerbahçe)- the 18-year-old goalkeeper has been scouted by the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City. It will be interesting to see how he develops under the mentorship of Volkan Demirel.
- Aminu Umar (Rizespor)- despite being relegated last season, I was impressed with the Nigerian winger, who is direct, strong and possesses a ferocious turn of pace.
- Bobô (Alanyaspor)- a prolific frontman for Beşiktaş and Kayserispor, the 33-year-old Brazilian returns to Turkey fresh from scoring 27 goals last season for Sydney FC.
- Mahmoud Trezeguet (Kasımpaşa)- my favourite player in the Süper Lig, Kasımpaşa have done amazingly well to hold onto him. The scorer of spectacular goals, I’m excited to see how his second season in Turkey unfolds.
- Cyle Larin (Beşiktaş)- the young Canadian scored four in as many games after arriving in January from Orlando City. More emphasis will be on him to lead the line this term.