Turkish SPOR-TOTO Super Lig Review
(Image Copyright of National Turk)
Another superb season in one of Europe’s under-rated leagues, the Turkish Super Lig, came to an end last weekend. Despite the top of the table being ruled by the super powers that are Galatasaray and Fenerbache, the competition for places below sky rocketed to a new level.
Galatasaray won the league by a massive 10 points, with Fenerbache eating the proverbial dust created by their bitter rivals. The signings of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder gave them the impetus to step up their bid for the title. Burak Yilmaz, of Gala, topped the scoring charts with 24 goals, also chipping in with 8 assists. Fenerbache, led by Mehmet Topal, and a cohort of ex-Premier League stars, such as Miroslav Stoch, Dirk Kuyt and Joseph Yobo, fell away late on, losing to the likes of Istanbul BB, despite the efforts of star striker Moussa Sow, who ended the season with 15 goals. To soften the blow, they defeated Trabzonspor in the cup final to pick up the famed Türkiye Kupası Trophy.
With those two taking the two Champions League spots, the battle for Europa League football was fiercer than ever. Besiktas and Bursaspor finished 3rd and 4threspectively. Bursaspor, who won the title after heavy investment in 2009/10, have struggled to keep up with Fener and Gala in recent seasons, arguably had what we think is the player of the season in Pablo Batalla. It could be argued that Yilmaz deserves the accolade, but with 15 goals and leading the assist charts with 17, the 29 year old Argentine, along with Chilean forward Sebastian Pinto helped secured Bursaspor European football once more.
Besiktas, whose side boasts the likes of Hugo Almeida, Julian Escude and rising star Oguzhan Ozyakup (who was released by Arsenal at the end of the 2011/12 season), had an excellent season. Manuel Fernandes was the creator of all good for them, ending the season with 12 assists. Dentinho, on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, also chipped in the 7 goals.
There were a few surprise packages in this season’s Super Lig, with newly promoted Kasimpasa, who fought their way through the 2nd divisions play offs, finished 6th, with the help of German Star and Club Captain Fabian Ernst, and Nigerian striker Kalu Uche, who has had spells with Espanyol and Almeria in the Spanish La Liga, ending the season behind Yilmaz in the scoring charts with 19 goals. Early in the season they sacked Manager Diyadin and replaced him with Kayserispor manager and Rangers legend Shota Arveladze.
The other two shock contenders for the top 6 were Arveladze’s former team, Kayserispor, who with the help of Brazilian striker Babo, 3rd in the scoring charts with 18 goals, finished 5th after finishing 11th the previous season. Other impressive performers for them over the season were Ex-Sunderland Cristian Riveros, Argentine Pablo Mouche and former Feyenoord forward Diego Bisewar. The other team to surprise a few were Antalyaspor, who narrowly avoided relegation in 2011/12, finishing 14th. This season, starring the likes of Moroccan Ismail Aissati, Ex-Man Utd trialists Isaac Promise and top scorer Lamine Diarra (who only signed last summer from Partizan Belgrade) faired much better.
Despite an appearance in the cup final, Trabzonspor will be disappointed, as a 3rdplace finish last season has been followed with 9th place this season. Never the less thanks to that final appearance vs Fenerbache, which was lost, they still have a Europa League qualifying place to show for their efforts.
It’s been well documented how well promoted Kasimpasa have done, the other two to rise from the depths of the 2nd division were Akhisar and Elazigspor. Both will be proud, especially Akhisar, who were making their debut in the top division. Initially they struggled to adapt to the league, but a late push, with help from leading scorer and Greek star Theofanis Gekas, who only joined in January on a free transfer, scored 12 goals in 15 appearances to seal safety. Elazigspor, returning after an 8 year exodus from the Super Lig, suffered from disciplinary problems, but nevertheless achieved 13th place and another season in the top flight.
Relegated this season were Orduspor, Mersin and Istanbul Buyuksehir, who play in the biggest stadia in Turkey, the Olympic Stadium, with a capacity of 76,000. Orduspor and Mersin spent the season playing the leagues’ whipping boys, with both having poor records. Orduspor lost 10 games in a row, and Mersin didn’t win for half a season (15 games). What was most depressing for Istanbul is the previous season they had finished 6th.
As for the rest, Eskisehirspor dropped from 5th place in 2011/12 to 8th place. Sivasspor, led by the creative force Erman Kilic, who ended the season with 12 assists (3rd place), finished 12th. Karabukspor, who changed manager twice, struggled across the line four points ahead of relegated Istanbul in 15th. Gaziantepspor and Genclerbirligi, who finished 10th and 11th respectively, had nothing particularly special to shout about, but a solid mid-table finish means they will have a good base to start from next season.
As mentioned, our player of the season was a close decision, between Burak Yilmaz of Gala and Pablo Batalla or Bursaspor, but with 15 goals and 17 assists, Batalla narrowly wins it. His ability to pull the strings from midfield yet have the ability to score so many goals impressed us greatly. Yilmaz had a great season, but with the likes of Sneijder, Riera, Melo and Drogba surrounding him, he had an easier job than Batalla.
This league is really starting to take off, with a lot of investment coming into the fray. Galatasaray made it to the final stages of the Champions League, and Fenerbache got to the Semi-Finals of the Europa League, which shows this is the “Dark Horse” of leagues on the European scene. Some very talented players are plying their trade there, some believe for the money, but it’s now clear to see that there were deeper reasons, Wesley Sneijder, for example made the choice to join Galatasaray. We can see this league going from strength to strength and possibly overtaking the Dutch, Portuguese and French leagues in terms of quality, though PSG and Monaco may have something to say about that! Next season will be one to watch.