Did Gökhan Gönül join Beşiktaş for the money?

Updated: July 11, 2016

On July 1st 2016, Beşiktaş made a remarkable signing with Turkish international right-back Gökhan Gönül. It is by far the most controversial signing Beşiktaş have made in recent memory.

Of course Gökhan is an excellent player, he has been the best right-back in the Turkish league for many years now, but the controversy lays in the fact that he has loyally served Beşiktaş’ archrivals Fenerbahçe for nine long years not his ability or even his age.

While Beşiktaş fans are delighted with this signing, Fenerbahçe fans respond with disgust as they see their vice-captain leave for one of their biggest rivals. Words as “snake” and “money hungry dog” are thrown around without care. But when we look at the financial details of Gökhan Gönül’s deal with Beşiktaş and we compare them to what was offered to him in terms of a contract extention by Fenerbahçe – financial details we know because Fenerbahçe president Aziz Yildirim made them public last month – we can conclude that Gökhan Gönül’s choice to join Beşiktaş instead of extending with Fenerbahçe was far from a financial decision.

Fenerbahçe’s lucrative offer

Fenerbahçe president Aziz Yildirim made no secret of the lucrative offer his club made for Gökhan Gönul to remain.

Fenerbahçe president Aziz Yildirim made no secret of the lucrative offer his club made for Gökhan Gönul to remain.

Fenerbahçe club president Aziz Yildirim had announced at his club’s last general board meeting that they had made Gökhan Gönül a very attractive contract offer. He heckled the player for “wanting too much money”, claiming that Gökhan was demanding a contract of 2,75 million euros per season in addition to a 500.000 euro bonus for his agent. Yildirim told the club’s congress member that they had made Gönül an attractive 3 year offer of 2,25 million euros per season – up from 1,7 million euros – in addition to a 20.000 euro match bonus which he was already receiving in his old contract.

So Fenerbahçe were offered Gökhan Gönul 6,75 million euros in guaranteed wages over 3 years in addition to 20.000 euros per match to extend his contract. If Gökhan would play atleast 30 games per season he’d make an additional 1,8 million euros for a total of 8,55 million euros over 3 years.

Gökhan Gönül’s Beşiktaş contract

Gökhan Gönül signed a four year contract with the Black Eagles rather then extending with Fenerbahçe.

Gökhan Gönül signed a four year contract with the Black Eagles rather then extending with Fenerbahçe.

Gökhan Gönul has signed a 4 year deal with Beşiktaş, in which he’ll make 1,75 million euros in the first two years, 1,7 million in the third and 1,65 million in the fourth. That sums up to 6,85 million euros in guaranteed wages over 4 years. In addition Gökhan Gönül will receive 4.000 euros per point; in Layman’s terms that means he’ll receive no bonus for a defeat, 4.000 euros for a draw and 12.000 euros for a win. Let’s say Beşiktaş gather atleast 75 points in each of these 4 seasons and Gökhan features in every single game, he’ll earn a total of 1,2 million euros. In total that adds up to 8,05 million euros over 4 years.

Beşiktaş did not disclose a signing bonus, but several media outlets are reporting that Beşiktaş paid a total of 2 million euros to Gökhan and his agent Ahmet Bulut. So let’s assume for a moment that he did in fact get thet signing bonus, then the total sum would be 9,95 million euros over 4 years. That’s 1,4 million euros more than what Fenerbahçe was offering for a year less of contract.

Why would a club icon leave for 1,4million?

Indeed, why on earth would Gökhan Gönul – a Fenerbahçe club icon – leave the club he’s spent the past 9 years at for “only” 1,4 million euros? And that’s assuming that Fenerbahçe would not offer him another contract extention when this contract would be up, let’s be honest. If he stayed he would have surely gotten a job in the coaching staff or perhaps even another extention so that 1,4 million really is nothing, he could have easily earned that still with a contract extention or a job on Fenerbahçe’s staff.

A player is not going to leave a club he’s been at for close to a decade in order to join an archrival, for what can be considered pocket change in the world of Turkish football for a player of Gökhan’s stature. Clearly his reasons for leaving Fenerbahçe and making a very controversial move to rivals Beşiktaş are not financial. People who are going to argue “yes but that 1,4 million is atleast guaranteed”, are making a very weak case and are only kidding themselves.

There are a lot of rumours on why Gökhan Gönül really left, I’m not going to delve in to them in to detail as they are just speculation. Was he fed up with Aziz Yildirm and the way the club was being ran? Was he worried about the competition of Sener? Only Gökhan and a select few people will know the truth, but one thing is clear, money was not the main reason behind his departure.

“Gökhan used Beşiktaş as a bargaining chip and it backfired”

From the Fenerbahçe camp you’ll hear lot’s of different nonesensical ‘excuses’ like the above one. Aziz Yildirm started to stir up the Fenerbahçe fans by opening criticizing Gökhan Gönül for “wanting too much money”. And Gökhan wouldn’t be the first player to use the interest of other clubs in his favour to get a better wage. His last contract with Fenerbahçe – which expired on May 31st – was a guaranteed contract of 1,7 million euros per season and 20.000 euros per match he played. As I already mentioned above, Fenerbahçe offered him a very attractive new contract, offering him 550.000 euros more per season. If Gökhan Gönül really was just “using Beşiktaş as a bargaining chip” then surely he would have accepted that contract, he has known for over two months the offer that was on the table from the Black Eagles. You can play hard ball for a while but if he wanted to stay he would have taken the deal, clearly he had a desire to leave the club and so he did.

Character assassination

Once it became clear to the Fenerbahçe board that Gökhan Gönül would not be extending his contract and instead join a rival, they started to leak information and blatantly drag contract talks in to the open. Certain people will call this “transparency” but anyone knows that this has nothing to do with transparency and has everything to do with casting a shadow on the player. A club who isn’t even bothered with disclosing the wages of their new signings isn’t going to disclose this information to the public to be “transparent”, it has only one goal and that id discredit the player with the fans to make themselves look like they’re in the right.

While Gökhan Gönül at all times remained classy, only issuing a statement denying media claims (which claimed he had asked Fenerbahçe to “wait for him” as he supposedly received an offer from Barcelona (only Turkish media can make this kind of stuff up)). And even issued a statement after signing with the Black Eagles, thanking the Fenerbahçe fans for their support and the years he had at the club.

Fenerbahçe for some reason felt it was needed to respond with an official statement to Gökhan’s denial of said media claims and publically slammed the player.

At no point did Gökhan respond to these provocations from his now ex-club. Fenerbahçe released no less than 3 passive-agressive statements in order to depict Gökhan Gönul as the bad guy and themselves as the innocent victim. But at no point did Gökhan respond, he remained respectful.

And of course, respectful is a relative term, he is afterall jumping ship to a rival. But it’s not like this hasn’t happened before, it’s just that usually it’s the other way around as Fenerbahçe are the club who pride themselves in tempting players from their rivals to join them in exchange for a hefty bump in pay. It’s not as fun when the shoe is on the other foot it seems.


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Kaan Bayazit

Editor-in-chief at Beşiktaş International
Freelance sports writer specialized in Turkish football and Beşiktaş. Co-host of the Black Eagles podcast. Frequently featured in World Soccer Digest Japan and many other international media outlets. Following Turkish football for close to two decades. Proud father to Aedin.
Kaan Bayazit
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