2017/18 Beşiktaş transfer review – part 2/2

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Updated: May 29, 2018

The 11 transfers that Beşiktaş made in the summer represented shrewd business acumen, with the club still in relatively dire straits financially. Still though, a number of older players were able to add squad depth and even challenge for starting positions.

That said, not all of the moves panned out. Particularly those moves that were made in the attempt to bolster Beşiktaş’ attacking options; both to supplement Cenk Tosun, and then to replace him once he was sold. In part 1 of this review the bulk of last summer’s transfers were reviewed, to mixed results. All but one of the summer transfers was covered: the perhaps main acquisition of the transfer window, Pepe. Here we’ll look at that transfer, and then the moves made in the winter window to bolster a team that was not reaching its expectations by the time the window had opened.

Kepler Laveran de Lima Ferreira (Pepe) – 5 (Free)

Initial Response:

Love him or hate him from his days in Madrid, Pepe is a high profile player who still clearly has plenty to offer most teams. His price tag (or lack thereof, he was a free agent signing) was only the first major plus to this signing. The team needed a central defender as a top priority going into the transfer window, and that’s what made the shrewd signing a real coup. As a perennial starter for both Real Madrid and the Portuguese NT, Pepe earned himself a reputation as a hard-nosed, rough and tumble defender (perhaps prone to succumbing to emotion a little too often). The truth however, was that he had also calmed considerably over the years, though to little fanfare. To sum it up, he was probably the best-case scenario for a Beşiktaş side needing to solidify a back line prone to moments of panic and disarray. Would he be over the hill? As a free signing, it was a more than worthwhile risk to take.

Initial Grade (at the time of the deal):

9/10

The Final Results:

Pepe was all that he’d been expected to be. Some might point to the fact that Beşiktaş allowed the same 30 goals this season in the league as they had in the season prior. Was this a sign that perhaps Pepe didn’t bring with him an improvement defensively? It should be noted that the team allowed the least amount of goals of any Super Lig team. Perhaps more importantly, the back line was solid against tougher Champion’s League teams, not collapsing as in year’s prior. In the end, Pepe was top-notch on the field. And thanks to his high-profile, he brought some shine to Beşiktaş’ international profile, proving to have plenty left in the tank.

Final Grade:

9/10

Domagoj Vida – 24 (Free)

Initial Response:

Vida’s transfer was an interesting one. Sealed months prior to his arrival, with his contract with Dynamo Kiev still not concluded, Beşiktaş had to play a bit of a waiting game. While Beşiktaş fans waited, the team floundered in the league. Following good European performances with poor domestic ones regularly, the team gave itself an insurmountable challenge. This first half of the season struggle was in large part a product of the defense.  Beşiktaş allowed 19 of the 30 goals they allowed all year in the first half of the season.  Still though, valued at 9 mil € during the summer (he’s since been devalued to 7 mil by transfermarkt), by waiting until the winter, the front office likely saved Beşiktaş a good bit of money. Under FFP restrictions at the time, moves like these may have played a large part in getting the club out from under those restrictions, as they are today.

Initial Grade (at the time of the deal):

9/10

The Final Results:

Vida performed well, but it took longer than hoped for him to settle into the starting lineup. OK, he really did nothing wrong on a macro level and was a key contributor to an objectively better defense (the team only allowed 11 goals in the second half of the season), so why would I downgrade his overall grade? Bayern Munich. It’s petty, perhaps. It’s too tied into singular moments, seeing the forest for the trees, and not the trees for the forest – call it what you will. I’m just of the personal belief that the red card that Domagoj Vida clearly earned himself early in that Bayern tie was one that impacted more than just Beşiktaş’ competitiveness against their extremely talented German opposition in the Champion’s League. For an in-depth explanation, check our latest episode of the Black Eagles Podcast. In short: the potential to shine against a side as talented as Bayern Munich (even if not necessarily in victory), could have paid dividends. In further proving themselves a serious, competitive side in Europe, a good, competitive Beşiktaş performance could have had a knock on effect that may have allowed the team to retain Anderson Talisca, among other things (perhaps he makes the Brazilian NT in that what if scenario?). That said, Vida is a very talented defender who alongside Pepe should form the core of what will likely again be a very good Beşiktaş defense. And with him signed on going into to the season, and both he and Pepe settled into the team, Beşiktaş will likely have an improved defense. He realistically deserves an 8 or even a 9, but I’m making an example of him here, fairly or not.

Final Grade:

7/10

Vágner Silva de Souza (Love) – 30 (3 mil €)

Initial Response:

Vágner Love was a transfer that is on some levels hard to judge, given the circumstances that lead up to it. On other levels, it’s less difficult to judge… It has to be said that the conditions under which he was signed were sub-optimal. Cenk Tosun was sold suddenly. Whereas it seemed uncertain he’d go, and even logical for Beşiktaş to try to keep him (being that they were in the middle of a historic Champion’s League campaign), Cenk was sold. Everton’s ‘offer too good to turn down’ was enough to sway our front office and the result was a kind of mad dash to find a suitable replacement. The chase for Javier (Chícharo) Hernández was drawn out, Demba Ba entered the equation later on, and then Cyle Larin, who eventually signed with Beşiktaş too, also started getting brought up; it was non-stop rumors and speculation. Finally, perhaps having taken longer than was good for the team, Love was settled on. He had scored 10 goals for Alanyaspor already in the first half of the season, despite an injury that had kept him out for three consecutive weeks. His tally with Alanya had been 34 goals in 44 matches, which is a good scoring record by any standard. Love seemed like a safe bet perhaps, by that metric. He was used to the Turkish league, and had found success in it already. Still, given that Cenk had clearly been the better striker between he and Negredo, it was clear Beşiktaş needed to swing for the fences. The end result? Love wasn’t going to be a long-term answer to the team’s issues upfront, and given the fanbase’s love for Cenk Tosun, most wanted more out of the transfer window. Plus, success as the sole offensive maestro on a lower level Turkish side would not guarantee success on perhaps global football’s brightest stage; the Champion’s League.

Initial Grade (at the time of the deal):

4/10

The Final Results:

In the end, Love under-performed even in the league once he’d joined Beşiktaş. 4 goals in 13 appearances wasn’t even the worst of it. He looked out of his comfort zone, perhaps not comfortable in the role Şenol Güneş’ system required up front. Whatever it was, he did not match the needs of the club, and watching Cenk Tosun find his footing in England and begin to thrive only compounded things for Beşiktaş fans. The fit didn’t look quite right from the outset, and at this point there are already rumors of a move back to Brazil for the aging striker. Why even a 3, you ask? He scored against Bayern, giving us some slight solace, perhaps. And a brace against Karabükspor  in a 5-0 thrashing of them that perhaps made us all feel better about him at the time.

Final Grade:

3/10

Cyle Christopher Larin – 95 (1.85 mil €)

Initial Response:

The move was intriguing, given the young man’s track record in MLS with Orlando City (alongside Kaká), where he scored 44 goals in 89 appearances. At 23 (22 at the time of the deal), he was a little old as far as prospects go, but young enough to qualify still. To put it simply however, the loss of Cenk Tosun had not been covered by the pickup of Vágner Love. Whether this young, project type of player would pan out or not, Beşiktaş fans had the Champion’s League on their minds foremost, and the front office’s inability to aptly replace the vital Tosun probably overshadowed whatever positives could be gleaned from this transfer. Yes he had a decent track record in the US, yes he was from Brampton, Ontario, meaning he had the same hometown as someday (if not already) club legend Atiba Hutchinson; the fact was simply that Beşiktaş fans wanted instant gratification, and this wasn’t going to solve any of the team’s glaring needs up front. At least not immediately, and certainly not of the ability required to topple the likes of Bayern Munich.

Initial Grade (at the time of the deal):

6/10

The Final Results:

Full disclosure, I’ve already written an article profiling the player and how positive my views are on him here. His impact wasn’t felt until late in the season, as coach Şenol Güneş was hesitant to play him given the significance of all of our games late in the season. Still though, in flashes, he sparkled. The big knock on him coming out of the US was his penchant for sitting in the box and waiting for the ball, perhaps not creating his own opportunities. Firstly, Beşiktaş had found quite a bit of success with players in that mold already, so in and of itself that might not have been an issue for the club. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, the label didn’t seem particularly accurate. On the club’s final matchday, against Sivasspor. He netted a hat-trick including one goal that had him using his pace and creativity off the wing to score a goal that had Beşiktaş fans realizing there may have been a diamond in the rough on their bench all along. In the end, one of the bright spots of the season may have been unearthing the young Canadian talent, and there’s already a loud contingent of Beşiktaş fans who are excited to see what more he can offer next season with a whole offseason of training with the team under his belt. And all for less than 2 million euros invested. Not a bad bit of business at all considering he’s signed until 2022 and is already earning praise for his play – and more importantly, possibly minutes on the pitch.

Final Grade:

9/10

Final Wrap-Up

All-in-all it was a fairly successful season on the transfer end of things. A number of shrewd deals brought in very solid, if often aging talents that quickly made a positive impact with the team. Still though, it was the failure to provide initially good depth up front, and then anyone at all once Cenk Tosun left that ultimately hurt the team the most. Perhaps had Larin seen more playing time earlier, this narrative could have been reversed by Coach Güneş. Additionally, the team may have been lacking on the back line early onin the season because they were forced to wait for Vida’s previous contract to end. Regardless, the story is more complex than it might first appear and in remembering the financial restrictions the front office were confined by, it’s hard to see these transfers, cumulatively, as anything other than good work just about all-around by the front office of Beşiktaş.

Sinan Schwarting

Sinan Schwarting

Sinan is a life-long Beşiktaş fan. He writes fiction and is just completing his first project (look out for it), as well as being the co-founder of Be Fluent NYC, where he also teaches during the week.
Sinan Schwarting