Phillip Cocu sacked as Fenerbahce boss ahead of the Intercontinental Derby
The Intercontinental Derby takes place later today as Galatasaray and Fenerbahce are set to go head-to-head with the two sides at opposite ends of the Super Lig table. Galatasaray is currently second, while Fenerbahce is struggling, having sacked Phillip Cocu; who was only appointed during the summer.
Cocu was a big name appointment for Fener. As a player, he spent the best years of his career with PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona and won five league titles (four with PSV and one with Barca) He also spent time with AZ Alkmaar, Vitesse and Al Jazira. Cocu was an important player for the Netherlands and won 110 caps for the Oranje. After retirement, he went into coaching with the PSV youth teams and also assisted with the national team for four years, including at the 2010 World Cup where the Dutch lost in the final to Spain.
In 2013 he was appointed the manager of PSV and during his time at the Philips Stadion, he led the club to three Eredivisie titles, a KNVB Cup and two Johan Cruyff Shields until he left in the summer. Cocu always attempted to develop young players as PSV boss. When he was approached to take over at Fenerbahce, it was because the decision makers at the club wanted to put emphasis on youth instead of the traditional Turkish approach, which in recent years has been to sign older, experienced players from the bigger leagues in Europe. Players who are perhaps just past their best years.
Cocu made 11 signings this summer, with seven of them being 24 years old or younger. The board also decided to cash in on a few players who were approaching 30 years old. While Cocu will have had a long-term plan to gradually reduce the age of the players he used, in the 10 league games he led the team in, he only fielded five or more players of 24 years or under on two occasions. This included his final game when Fener lost 3-1 at home to Ankaragucu. In four of his games in charge, he used just two players from this age bracket.
Fenerbahce has always been amongst the superpowers in Turkish football. They have won a record 28 championships although a number of these are not recognised by the Turkish Football Federation as they came under a different banner. While the Super Lig doesn’t get as much publicity as it deserves in Western Europe, Istanbul is a football-obsessed city and the Fener fanbase expect success. Anything less than first is not good enough, so to see the club in 15th, just one point above the relegation places, is disastrous for everyone associated.
The comeback must start instantly and with a trip across the city to take on rivals, Galatasaray, coming up, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Now that Cocu is gone, the team will be led out by Erwin Koeman, brother of current Dutch coach Ronald Koeman. Koeman is unlikely to remain and it seems there is a movement to bring back Ersun Yanal who won the Super Lig with Fener in 2013/14. It is believed that Yanal would be a popular appointment among the fans but that he faces some opposition in the boardroom. Regardless of who takes the reins, there is a lot of room for improvement and a defeat in the Intercontinental Derby would be the footballing equivalent of kicking a dog when it’s down and the Fenerbahce fans will feel they have already suffered enough.