Transfers of Beşiktaş in latest years and the new mentality

Updated: February 15, 2015

Like any transfer window, this January was also rife with many rumours, breaking news and newspaper headlines; some true but mostly empty words. After the deadline passed, we see Beşiktaş squad strengthened by no less than 3 players. Technical analysis of these transfers are already made, and by people who are far more qualified than I am about the subject. The topic will be the philosophy of Beşiktaş transfers and the change about them in the last couple of years.

Last Championship

For many including myself, one of the contributing factors of the double of 2009 was the bringing of Fabian Ernst and Yusuf Şimşek in the winter transfer window. Them being good transfers along with Mustafa Denizli’s aptitude at creating miracles worked just right and Beşiktaş won the Cup along with the League that year. The fans were ecstatic at the celebrations, but many were still unsatisfied with just the championship after many years. They wanted to beat the other İstanbul clubs at their own game too. They wanted big transfers and a shiny squad full of stars. Maybe the first time in football history, the champion team was greeted with the name of a player from another team: Quaresma. Apparently the fans didn’t forget the fabulous display and the last minute winning goal with Porto jersey by him in 2007. Though he was yet to wear the black and white jersey.

The transfers made to that champion squad is another story that needs telling, though. Starting centre back Zápotocny was loaned for free to Bursaspor, while in his place Matteo Ferrari was brought from Genoa. The sending of Ferrari from the team is another story, and to this day Beşiktaş is still paying for his compensation which amounted to more than his transfer fee. Rodrigo Tabata and İsmail Köybaşı arrived from Gaziantepspor for more than 13 million dollars and Nihat returned home for a hefty fee from Villareal. Even though the team didn’t lose big names it lost important ones like Cisse, being the only decent central midfielder in the team, was let go for free. Matías Delgado, the gifted but fragile trequartista/winger who lost his place in the final third to Tabata was hopelessly trying to fill the void left by Cisse in the center of the field. This dream of Denizli playing with all (expensive) attacking midfielders and none holding midfielders was a losing battle and the season was a disaster for all to remember, finishing 4th in the league and failing to qualify from groups in both the Cup and Champions League (drawing Wolfsburg from an otherwise hapless 4th pot also didn’t help much).

Portuguese Gang

That summer Beşiktaş board decided their fault previous year was not spending enough money. With the controversial player agent Mendez, Demirören’s business parter now in the loop, Beşiktaş went all in. The club was already in much debt, and being the champion meant a lot of money through TV rights and Champions League revenues to make everything straight. That’s how the biggest contracts in Beşiktaş history were signed that year. Flamboyant coach Bernd Schuster arrived along with Real Madrid star, captain and playmaker Guti. The Portuguese gang signed consisted of national stars striker Hugo Almeida, midfielder Manuel Fernandes, left wing Simao and the long awaited right wing Ricardo Quaresma. Hilbert was also signed as a right winger, but evolved into one of the best right backs ever played for Beşiktaş in the recent years. There were still other stars like the talented striker Bobo. On paper, Beşiktaş was already champions before even playing any games. Real life, Turkish football scene and the foreign players rule didn’t agree though.

The dream didn’t last long and it is a long story for another article. What remained was a very expensive squad and growing debts, while Beşiktaş finished only 5th, first time out of the top 4 since many years. Beşiktaş decided to continue with the caretaker coach after Schuster, Tayfur. He was the assistant coach of Schuster in the previous season before Schuster resigned. Egemen Korkmaz, Mustafa Pektemek and Ersan Gülüm was snatched from the rivals, so their transfer fees and/or contracts were expensive. Also, the board brought more players of Mendez, some loans and some with big contracts. 3 new Portuguese were Sidnei, Bebe and Julio Alves. This trio hardly ever took any playing minutes and there was the Brazilian striker Edu on loan from Schalke. Just before the season, the infamous graft about match fixing fell onto everybody’s lap. Tayfur spent a lot of time in prison and a new caretaker Carlos Carvalhal was brought by Mendez. Tayfur was not found guilty and returned to the helm mid season but neither he was capable of turning the tide nor the situation was an easy one so that was another horrible season spent away.

The “Feda” season

The debt was beyond control, the players and fans unhappy and the club was a complete mess. So the chairman Demirören somehow got promoted to the chairman of Turkish FA and Fikret Orman became the chairman. The club was just too much in the red, there was just too little money to change things. So, a low profile coach who was also an ex-Beşiktaş player was chosen: Samet Aybaba. He wasn’t a visionary but he had a relatively cheap contract and was willing to work with cheap players. This season the club had no money to spend on anything, so mostly free or very cheap players were signed. Along with Veli who joined the previous season and Cenk and Ersan who joined the year before, Olcay and Oğuzhan were the latest additions to the young Turkish players. Except for Cenk they were all immigrants’ children born in different countries around the world. Their lifestyles resembled of young bachelors trying to make ends meet, and them eating “Menemen” together was a running joke after each game. The team was losing points, but the friendship in the team was showing itself. The football on the pitch made many fans happy even though the team occasionally lost a game or drawn against an easy opponent. The team everybody was laughing at was playing beautiful football. The Beşiktaş many envisioned would battle relegation finished the season 3rd.

After the “Feda” season ended, the club was in a better condition to plan for the future. A very capable man for that position, Önder Özen was brought as a professional Director of Football. His coach of choice was a good match for Beşiktaş fans: Slaven Bilić. With some cash flow revived and all required permits finally produced, the nostalgic İnönü Stadium was finally demolished for building anew; but that also meant the team would not have a permanent home until the construction is finished. Just like the previous year, there were no big name signings. Young promising players holding a Turkish passport like Gökhan Töre, Kerim Frei and Ömer Şişmanoğlu were sought after. Another transfer for the future was the young Millonarios captain Pedro Franco. Also some more experienced players were brought for immediate impact to areas on field needed urgent improvement. Tolga Zengin, Serdar Kurtuluş, Atiba Hutchinson and Ramon Motta were among those reinforcements which are still in the squad. Some other free transfers or loanees such as Jermaine Jones, Michael Eneramo or Dany Nounkeu were made throughout the year but they failed to impress though it didn’t matter much economocally because they were signed either as loans or with short/cheap contracts. During this year, Fernandes experienced some problems on and off the pitch and eventually the coach dropped him from the team indefinitely and his contract was not renewed. This left the striker Almeida as the only Portuguese in the club, once amounted to 8 counting the coach.

This Year

First transfer was made before the end of the year and it was the signing of the young but successful striker Cenk Tosun. He was going out of contract so was signed as a free agent. Gaziantepspor was not very happy with losing the player for nothing and in the end some kind of deal was arranged with them but in the books that is reflected as some signing on money for Cenk, while Cenk forewent the club’s debt owed to him. Other transfers of the summer was buying loanees Gökhan Töre and Ramon Motta. In the meanwhile, contract negotiations with Almeida was going nowhere and his performance had never seen the levels everybody expected from him. So, surprisingly, Beşiktaş decided not to renew his contract and the last Portuguese of Beşiktaş was gone like that. Instead of him was the first big name signing after some time: Demba Ba from Chelsea. He was a big name signing but he had neither the capricious prima donna behaviours, nor the controversies and nightlife, nor the unstable performance on pitch. In fact, he was a religious guy who was quite modest and hardworking that matched the characters of other players that formed the backbone of Beşiktaş. The squad seemed to be complete even though it was thin in some areas. Days before the window closed, Sosa arrived from a wartorn Ukraine. He was bought for less than a quarter of his market value because he didn’t want to continue his life playing in Kharkiv, one of the cities that was experiencing the hardest parts of the war in Ukraine. He was on loan at Atletico Madrid the previous year and was an important part of the machine-like side of Diego Simeone.

Director of Football Önder Özen left (or made to leave) the club after a dispute (reason still unknown since nobody talks about this like omerta) with the board during the summer, but the club made a good start to the league regardless. When it was the winter break, everybody agreed on the 3 positions that needed transfers: One right back, one central midfielder and one optional central defender. Which kind of players would they be was a question, though. Milosevic is a young talent for the future that resembled the transfer of Pedro Franco, Opare is a loanee who was a wonderkid but failed to become the player he would be that resembled the transfer of Gökhan Töre, and Tolgay Arslan is the exact player the squad needed for a bargain price that resembled the transfer of Jose Sosa yet lower profile. Some argue at least one of these players should have been more experienced and “ready” but time will show the success rate of the transfers. We can say that these transfers also fit in the transfer patterns of Beşiktaş in the last years.

New Transfer Mentality and Characteristics of Transfers

We can more or less recognize a pattern in transfers of Orman era. Investing in talents (Oğuzhan, Pedro Franco, Kerim Frei, Gökhan Töre, Milosevic) who can more or less get playing time is one of them. In the past, Beşiktaş rarely transferred players under 23 years old, and those transferred were rarely the kind to get considerable amount of minutes. Another pattern is first loaning players before buying to save money (less wage for a year) and mitigate risks of adaptation. Ersan, Gökhan, Motta, Sosa, Opare are all examples to this. We also see a pattern of trying to snatch players under their market value due to a reason other than the player’s performance on pitch. Tolga Zengin who wanted to move to İstanbul to be close to his mother who was receiving treatment in a hospital in İstanbul, Jose Sosa who wanted to be out of Kharkiv because of a civil war, Tolgay Arslan nearing the end of his contract are all examples to this. There is also the transferring of stop-gap solution experienced players for short contracts which can be extended into longer contracts if it turns out to be a good transfer like Atiba, Jermaine Jones, Eneramo, Dany, Niang, Escude, McGregor, Dentinho are all examples. These transfers carry more risk, but the impact, the potential loss is small because little money is put into them. Some served their duty well and left the club when their services are no longer needed (Escude, Niang), some were failures with little cost (Jones, Eneramo, Dany), some even made the club some money (McGregor). Only Dentinho seems to be a complete failure, and the most positive is Atiba who is still an important part of our midfield. Another thing to note is that the amount of such transfers dropped year by year and none of them are made this year. Even though they carry little cost to club when impact risk analysis is made, this “lottery” transfers have reduced to zero. This shows, with the increasing network of scouting, improving financial status and deepening squad, the transfers are being made cautiously. We can also say that we at least have a strategy and style of transfers now since we can see positive patterns emerging.

Last but not least, a very important thing to note is that the personalities of the players seem to be taken into account when transfers are being made. The harmony and friendship in the team which is one of the causes of our good performance on pitch is partly because of this strategy. The backbone of the team are players that are similar to each other, second or third generation immigrants with good friendship between them. The foreign players are either young talents, silent workhorses or model professional stars. The characteristics shared by everybody in the team are working hard, being modest, enjoying football and playing fair. These boys are trying to be the player who ran the most. They ate menemen together and their nieces/nephews are sending videos asking for a goal to be scored from their fellow players. They have entertaining immigrant Turkish pronunciation; some more, some less. They have great respect to each other. We all like listening to their after game interviews because they are sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, sometimes heartening, often all. Their personalities gain the respect of everybody, Beşiktaş fan or not alike. In the past there were some players I said “this boy IS Beşiktaş”, regarding an aspect of the soul they possess. This is the first time since early ’90s I can say “these boys ARE Beşiktaş” as a team. I cannot say for sure this collection of players is just coincidence or a deliberate transfer pattern; but if that is the latter, that is the best transfer pattern Beşiktaş adopted in the last years.


Emrah Dinçer, Beşiktaş International