Ask any Galatasaray supporter – including me – what we would like to see happen to Fenerbahçe (our biggest rival) and the likely response would be a ton of expletives before concluding with:
“I want to see them relegated.”
A comment that would probably be delivered with a little snigger … and absolute zero confidence that it would ever happen.
Yet, this year, the second-most decorated team in Turkey is facing the prospect of being relegated for the first time in its history.
(For frame of reference: This is far more unlikely than when Leicester won the Premier League.)
Fenerbahçe – a.k.a. The Canaries – is a team that has challenged for the title consistently ever since I could walk. In the last nine seasons alone, their league placings have been as follows:
Actually, come to think of it, ever since the inaugural season of the Turkish Super League (1958/59), Fenerbahçe have only ever finished outside of the Top 4 on six occasions (with the lowest placement being 10th in the 1980/81 season).
How bad is it?
Oh, it’s bad!
Well, you see, Fenerbahçe entered this season with the hope of finally securing their 20th Super League title, and with it a fourth star to put on their shirts. (A star is awarded for every five titles that a team wins.) This would have brought them within touching distance of the 21 titles that Galatasaray has. Couple that with a good showing in Europe, and they would have been very happy.
Unfortunately for Fenerbahçe, they had already confirmed the departures of the Brazilian trio Guiliano, Fernandao and Souza, who were all first-team regulars last year. By preseason, all three were on a plane to Saudi Arabia for a combined $28 million. This left the Canaries with some gargantuan holes to fill in the midfield and forward positions.
Despite this, in an attempt to achieve their goals, Fenerbahçe brought in Dutch manager Philip Cocu, who had won the Dutch League thrice in five years with PSV Eindhoven. Cocu’s arrival was soon followed by a whole host of players from many different nations, the most important ones being: Jailson from Brazilian club Gremio for €4 million and both Andre Ayew (Swansea) and Islam Slimani (Leicester) coming on loan from Premier League clubs.
Fenerbahçe started the season with an unconvincing 2-1 win at home to Bursaspor, but followed this up with three consecutive defeats. Already, a gap was beginning to develop to the top of the table. The fifth game was an away win at Konyaspor. Fenerbahçe was in 11th place, and everyone was expecting a gallant push from the team.
That never happened …
The win against Konya would be Fenerbahçe’s last win in the league for a while. They entered what was to be a torrid run, one which shocked everybody.
And as for the next 13 games:
Played 13. Won 1. Drew 8. Lost 4.
Cocu was sacked on 28th October, 2018. His assistant took control until December 14th, and currently Ersun Yanal has returned to the team for his second spell in charge. Yanal managed to galvanise the team a little. Under his control, they won back-to-back league games for the first time this season, but then followed it up with a draw and loss.
Currently, Fenerbahçe sits in 17th, with only 12 games left of the season. Three of those games will be against Istanbul Başakşehir, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş. In the meantime, they have also been eliminated from the Turkish Cup by lower-league opposition, and beaten by Zenit St. Petersburg in the Europa League.
It truly is turning out to be a shambolic season for Fenerbahçe.
Will Fenerbahçe actually be relegated?
There’s absolutely no chance they will finish in the bottom three.
Reason: The Turkish FA will not let it happen.
It is common knowledge among Turkish fans that the Turkish Football Association is as corrupt as you can get. I can see the governing members having a weekly meeting about the possibility of Fenerbahçe getting relegated, and sweating at the thought of losing out on all the TV money that is generated by the local derby matches between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. The FA are probably just hoping that the Canaries improve their own results without a helping hand from the referees.
(Anyway, that’s my dig at the shoddy refereeing standards and all the cheating that occurs in the Turkish Super League.)
In all seriousness, the real reason why Fenerbahçe won’t get relegated is because they are not deserving of their dismal league position. They are competing in most games and creating enough chances to win games. The problem is that they have been absolutely woeful at converting the chances into goals. There have been games this year in which they ended up hitting the woodwork two or three times and then lost. They are not the same ruthless team they have been in the past.
When current manager Ersun Yanal came to the club, he said that they were looking to finish fourth. It is only a ten-point gap to fourth, after all. But how is a team who couldn’t score a goal in 180 minutes of football against lower-league opposition going to win games against their league rivals?
What’s the likely outcome?
Fenerbahce will likely finish around 13th, and finally be able to relax knowing that they avoided huge embarrassment. One that they would have never been allowed to forget. However, that poor position would mean that they have no European football to look forward to for at least a couple of years.
Based on history, teams that perform so poorly end up going for a complete overhaul of players and spending beyond their means in a hope to avoid similar problems. Well, Fenerbahçe can’t actually do that because they are completely and utterly broke! They are on the brink of bankruptcy and are up to their receding hairline in debt. Without any European football, they won’t be able to generate any funds, or attract the type of players that they would require to mount a title challenge.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the end of Fenerbahçe as a sporting organisation, but this year could be the start of a treacherous decade ahead. A decade which could see their biggest rival Galatasaray adding a fifth star before Fenerbahçe can even come close to securing their fourth!
Now that would be something.