How will Istanbul BK spend their summer?
Background photo: CR Gutman. CC BY 4.0.
In the closing stages of the season, I wrote about how the newest Istanbul football contingent, Istanbul Basaksehir, were in pole position in the Super Lig. Yet, I still had reservations due to glitches in performance and the tendencies that an ageing squad have at the campaign's tail-end. My vision came to light as Galatasaray kept up their fine fettle while BK were unable to sustain their good form.
The question now is, what happens next during the summer lull. Can the club retain the top talent? Do they even want to, given the short time left on these guys careers? Alternatively, can their transfer budget really afford to re-haul the whole team with newer, fresher stars?
The one name who management and fans alike most certainly want to keep is Edin Visca. The Bosnian midfielder is without a doubt their main man - if not the division’s best player. The league’s governing body recognised him as the top dog too, even if rival supporters didn't. Thirteen goals plus fourteen assists is an appealing set of statistics from the 29-year-old. Sure, everyone wants to be 22 again, but he’s still among the youngest players in this particular squad.
Istanbul's major transfer activity will be keeping Visca sweet while hoping he's happy to stay at the Fatih Terim Stadium. If that means re-negotiating his contract terms and offering higher wages, then so be it. He’s the best player in Turkey right now; the man who the side need to sculpt around. Losing him would ensue madness, although potential buyers may force their hand with a big transfer fee.
Retaining Visca's services may convince Riad Bajic to re-sign as well. The two fellow countrymen can build a good relationship. Bajic scored six goals throughout this season and like his international teammate, he props up the team’s youthfulness, aged 25.
The squad's average age is a little over 31. It's brought up rapidly by Emre Belozoglu. The 38-year-old Turk has enjoyed success across his homeland with both Fenerbache and Galatasaray. He also performed for overseas clubs, including Newcastle United.
Emre has been unable to win a league title during his four seasons at Istanbul Basakehir. The closest he's come is finishing second. The former international midfielder had said he planned to retire at the end of this season, and after the injury he sustained late on in the campaign, it looked ever more likely he would hang up his boots. Yet, there is some humdrum around the Turkish media that he’s soon set to join Fenerbache. In what capacity remains unclear.
Istanbul have a heavy contingent of ex-Premier League players. Emmanuel Adebayor. Demba Ba. Gael Clichy. Robinho. All of whose CV's scream out prior positions with reputable sides, in Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea. Now each aged between 33-35, these players still all have time left on their contracts. Is another year of veterans what the club really needs?
The experience is great, but the evidently tired legs are not. Istanbul Basaksehir slipped this term; they’ll slip harder next time around without addressing problems. The side will do everything to keep Visca, yet management should be doing their utmost to offload these four senior players. That would free up the wage budget.
It’s all too easy to say the club needs to start rearing its young. So far, though, the opposite plan of parachuting established players into the team hasn’t produced any league titles. Should investment come Istanbul's way again, it should redefine their future strategy to a long-term goal as opposed to buying foreign superstars whose wage demands are a rip-off compared to those of other players.
Given the club's reluctance to change this strategy in the last few years, it has to be considered that the owner’s endgame is to sell tickets and make money. These days, football is a business. Would your typical tourist like to see a homegrown Turkish side or a team gleaming with players once watched every week on Match of the Day? The latter, every single time.
Should the owners change or revaluate their ethos then sensible transfers may prompt more tangible trophies. Vedat Muriqi, Emrah Bassan, as well as Efecan Karaca, all played exceptionally well for Super Lig teams which were not challenging for the title. Picking up this ilk would be a better long term investment.
At present, Istanbul Basaksehir has no pre-season fixtures announced. They should sort that promptly as their old reserve needs to be sharp in time for the new campaign. Equally, any new signings will require a gelling process to work harmoniously.