The Turkish Super Lig has provided a welcome home for many Premier League exports. None more so than those who have fallen foul to the multi-million adventure making its name at Manchester City. While City fans look forward to a summer of huge importance, spare a thought for those who have moved on to ply their trade in Turkey.
Jo, Elano and Darius Vassell have all joined the likes of Geremi, Dos Santos, Kewell and Lucas Neill in adding to the number of ex-premiership players currently in Turkey’s top division. Jo and Elano opted for Istanbul and Galatasaray while Vassell found himself in the country’s capital with Ankaragucu. Each one has had their ups and downs in one of World football’s most passionate countries.
Elano joined Galatasaray and Frank Rijkaard under huge expectations. A debut 25 yard volley instantly made him a fans favourite, but the story since has been one of disappointment rather than success. Last Sunday’s Istanbul derby saw Galatasaray beaten at home by bitter rivals Fenerbahce. While Lucas Neill and Dos Santos avoided any blame, Elano was probably the biggest culprit in the Turkish media. Understandably so given his non-existent performance that, at times, even left me wondering if he was still on the pitch. Rijkaard has brought in a Barcelona-esque 4-3-3 system and Elano is given the creative role in the centre. As a Brazilian who once thrived in such a position in the Premier League, this should have been his chance to shine. Sadly for the Cimbom fans, this hasn’t been the case. With Galatasaray now lying in third place, they have a huge job on their hands to challenge for the league. If they can’t make it, the summer could see the end of Elano’s Istanbul adventure.
A fellow Brazilian in the form of Jo has not had such a hard time. When signed by City, many fans were left wondering if their club had meant to sign his former team-mate, and countryman, Vagner Love. None the less they persisted but Jo was eventually loaned out to Everton. After seemingly finding his feet on Merseyside, the Brazilian was again allowed to go out on loan, this time choosing Istanbul. At Gala he has been a relative success. The return from injury of Milan Baros could well see him spend the remainder of the season on the bench but he has still shown promise. He has 3 goals in eight appearances and has linked up well with fellow South American Gio Dos Santos. No doubt City will be looking to recuperate as much of the £15million they paid for him but I’m fairly sure his performances have not given the Galatasaray board enough hope to fund that sort of transfer. A learning curve maybe, but not likely to be a long term move.
Over in the capital, Darius Vassell is getting used to the ways of Turkish football. Having been welcomed at the airport by nearly 3,000 fans chanting his name, he could have been forgiven for wondering when it was going to go wrong. Well, he need not have waited too long. Along with a team-mate, Vassell was ordered to leave the hotel he’d been staying at due to the club’s failure to pay for his room. The England international seemed destined for a return to the UK but persevered with Ankaragucu. He has 4 goals in 19 games for the mid-table side but his reputation among the fans is a glowing one. If there’s one thing Turkish football doesn’t lack it is passionate fans. As a player you are on a par with a superstar, whether it be for a top team or a team battling for survival. Vassell is more likely to be part of the latter group but, none the less, ever popular in Ankara. The club will certainly want to keep him, it’s just a question of what twists and turns lay ahead for him in the unpredictable nature of the Turkish Super Lig and how happy he is to ride the waves.