Volkan Agir

The Turkish Super Lig is a quickly improving league, ratchetting up the excitement level year after year. Two years ago Sivasspor nearly created an earthquake by winning the title, but sadly they missed out, finishing second and then fourth the next season. However, the rise of Anatolian teams did not stop with Sivasspor’s fall – they battled the drop in the last campaign – as Bursaspor came through to stun the established order and claim the Super Lig crown.

This year it will be hard for Bursaspor to repeat the feat, but through their hard work teams outside the big three from Istanbul now believe that no barrier stands before them; Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray have no divine right to win the league. The big three from Istanbul do, of course, remain favourites, but with a new broadcasting agreement signed for $321M, clubs from outside the chosen few have been able to make a splash in the transfer market. And the arrival of more talent has led to expectation levels for the new season reaching fever pitch.

Here’s the team-by-team guide to this season’s Turkish Super Lig:


The Black Sea Storm start every year with high expectations and are regular top five finishers – they finished fifth in 2009/10. Last season they took the Turkish Cup from Fenerbahce’s hands and followed it up this season by winning the Super Cup, defeating champions Bursaspor 3-0 in impressive fashion.

Former goalkeeper and current coach Senol Gunes was appointed by the club’s board midway through last season and they have stuck with him. Gunes has not changed the spine of the team and there have only been four arrivals; these being a third choice keeper, young midfielder Baris Atas, Arkadiusz Glowacki to replace the retired Rigobert Song at the back and an explosive new striker in the form of Brazilian Jaja.

Gunes has developed a quick passing game at Trabzonspor and this was clearly on display in the Super Cup final. His team are the fittest in the league and with Ibrahim Yattara leading them forward, they are amongst the favourites to win the title.

Key arrivals:
Arkadiusz Glowacki (Wisla Krakow); Bora Sevim (Gaziantep BSB); Baris Atas (Diyarbakirspor); Jaja (Metalist Kharkiv)
Key departures: Rigobert Song (retired)
Prediction: 3rd


It was a true revolution for Turkish football when Bursaspor won the title last season; before them only Trabzonspor had won the league from amongst the many Anatolian sides that had tried but fallen short. Bursaspor’s achievement has made everyone believe the impossible is possible, but it is going to be hard for them to retain the title.

Coach Ertugrul Saglam and his young squad didn’t begin last season with a realistic vision of playing title winning football, but in this new campaign they have the pressure of being champions on their shoulders. A big change for Saglam’s team will be playing twice a week, as they are set to fight on a new front, the Champions League, as well as the Super Lig. Many in Bursaspor’s squad will be completely unprepared for this and it remains to be seen how they cope.

The champions have not lost any of their key men and have bolstered their ranks with the signings of four South Americans; Federico Insua, Leonel Nunez, Hector Steinert and Wenderson. Bursaspor were disappointing in the Super Cup loss to Trabzonspor and seemed bereft of the fight they showed last season. They must find this, and soon, or suffer the fate of Sivasspor by going into steep decline after league heroics.

Key arrivals: Federico Insua (CF America); Leonel Nunez (Independiente); Hector Damian Steinert (Racing Club de Avellaneda); Wederson (Fenerbahce)
Key departures: Zapotocny (Besiktas – loan return)
Prediction: 4rd


The only Turkish side to have won a major European trophy, Galatasaray could be forgiven for looking back rather than forward at the moment. Last year Frank Rijkaard arrived and brought some big-name players with him; Galatasaray believed the title would be theirs. But football can surprise even when optimisim is justified and the Istanbul giants lost key players like Harry Kewell and Milan Baros to injury at various points throughout the season: In the end they had to make do with third place.

Losing out on the Super Lig title and not reaching the Champions League meant missing out on a big pot of gold. As a result Galatasaray sold a raft of stars to make up the shortfall: Kader Keita, Mehmet Topal, Emre Gongor and Ugur Ucar all left, bringing in €15M between them. However, although Keita and Topal especially will be missed, Pablo Pina and Lorik Cana, both new arrivals, will go some way towards soothing that pain. The Lions signed five players of note, three of them on free transfers. A strong bench is essential to win the Super Lig as squad depth matters more and more. It is in this area where Galatasaray may come up a little short and the influence of Harry Kewell on the pitch will be vital. Rijkaard will be crossing his fingers that the Australian remains fit.

Galatasaray head into the season with the clear expectation of becoming champions. If they can avoid injuries to key players then this could become a reality. New striker Mehmet Batdal and youth produce Emre Colak promise much and either could enjoy a breakthrough campaign.

Key arrivals: Juan Pablo Pino (Monaco); Lorik Cana (Sunderland); Serdar Ozkan (Besiktas); Mehmet Batdal (Bucaspor); Musa Cagiran (Altay); Caglar Birinci (Denizlispor); Ali Turan (Kayserispor)
Key departures: Mehmet Topal (Valencia); Kader Keita (Al Sadd)
Prediction: 2nd


A new face in the Super Lig, Bucaspor made good on their promise to play with the big boys. After promotion the club decided to revamp the entire squad, signing 16 players. Then the board brought in former Sivasspor coach Bulent Uygun.

Although such wholesale changes could appear a very bad move at first glance, there is an argument within Turkey about the quality of players needed to survive in the Super Lig; it is felt that 1. League players just can’t cut it and few can blame Bucaspor for not wanting to run the risk. To this end experienced stars like Manuch, Jerko Leko, Stjepan Tomas and Dady have been added.

Uygun has signed tough and experienced pros in defence which is sure to be a make-or-break area for Bucaspor. Old soldiers Ibrahim Dagasan and Musa Aydin have also been snapped up from the coach’s old club Sivasspor, and they will control the midfield to impose Uygun’s playing mentality. While Bucaspor look to have adopted the right transfer strategy only time will truly tell, but they look capable of staying up.

Key arrivals: Manucho (Real Valladolid); Carlos (free); Jerko Leko (Monaco); Dady (Osasuna); Stjepan Tomas (Gaziantepspor); Ibrahim Dagasan (Sivasspor); Musa Aydin (Sivasspor)
Key departures: Mehmet Batdal (Galatasaray); Yilmaz Ozlem (Goztepe)
Prediction: 13th


The Black Eagles are keen to reclaim the title and finishing fourth last year, having won the league the year before that, brought chaos to the Istanbul side. It is therefore little surprise that there is a new face in the dugout; former Real Madrid manager Bernd Schuster. Last season Bestikas had real problems on the flanks, struggling to play with width. To this end Ricardo Quaresma has been brought in and the Portuguese winger will be important to the team and their chances.

Schuster was also well aware that the link between each portion of the side, defence, midfield and attack, was poor last season. The German has brought in a number of players to help with this, but the most crucial is surely Guti, who arrives after spending his entire career at the Bernabeu. Guti will add game intelligence to the midfield, while Besiktas still have the potent Matias Delgado, Bobo, Nihat, Filip Holosko and Rodrigo Tabata in the final third. With this wealth of frontline talent Besiktas will have little problem scoring. Schuster has a team to fight for the title and they are rightful favourites to end the season on top of the pile.

Key arrivals: Guti Hernandez (Real Madrid); Ricardo Quaresma (Inter)
Key departures: Rodrigo Tello (Eskisehir); Serdar Özkan (Galatasaray); Batuhan Karadeniz (Eskisehir)
Prediction: 1st



Eskisehirspor come from a real footballing city. At every home game their fans show their commitment with passion and help to create an atmosphere which makes Eskisehir one of the hardest places to visit. Last season that home advantage was key in helping the side finish a respectable seventh. This time around there have not been too many changes, especially to the spine of the team. Coach Riza Calimbay is reasonably happy with what he’s got, but has made some signings which could turn out to be influential including Chilean international Rodrigo Tello, Besiktas youngster Batuhan and Pele from Porto for central midfield. Eskisehirspor also sold several players to bring the side’s average age down.

This year Calimbay has a team full of hungry and determined players. If the team can feed tall striker Batuhan, they won’t have too many problems finding the back of the net. It’s a little too early to judge just how Eskisehirspor will do, but equalling seventh spot again won’t be easy.

Key arrivals: Rodrigo Tello (Besiktas); Batuhan Karadeniz (Besiktas); Pele (Porto); Burhan Eser (Genclerbirligi)
Key departures: Luka Vucko (released); Ragip Basdag (released); Umit Karan (released), Stjepan Poljak (Slaven Belupo)
Prediction: 7th


Fenerbahce come into this season with a whole heap of problems – in many ways similar to last season, but with one difference: This time they are bigger. The Yellow Canaries already find themselves knocked out of the Champions League before the group stage and there are rumours of a fallout between captain Alex and new coach Aykut Kocaman. Worries centre around Kocaman’s vision for the team. The new coach wants to build a team that can fight as well as play football, but Alex is only most involved with the ball at his feet. The Brazilian’s tracking back and mentality would appear to put him in direct conflict with Kocaman. Doubts also concern Uruguayan centre back Diego Lugano who is reportedly looking for another side to join, much hangs upon that not happening and the defender returning to Istanbul.

New wingers Issiar Dia and Miroslav Stoch can give the team an injection of life on the flanks, but both need to adapt to Turkish football quickly. Midfield is Fenerbahce’s strongest position with stars like Emre Belozoglu, Mehmet Topuz, Selcuk Sahin and Cristian Baroni, but the Yellow Canaries have big problems up front. Daniel Guiza, Semih Senturk and Deivid are all keen to leave the club and Kazim Kazim is another who wishes to be sold. Losing Wederson is a big loss from the left flank, especially from a defensive point of view. All in all Fenerbahce have many problems to address and it is hard to believe they can be resolved quickly enough to lift the title.

Key arrivals: Miroslav Stoch (Chelsea); Issiar Dia (Nancy); Caner Erkin (CSKA Moscow)
Key departures: Wederson (Bursaspor)
Prediction: 5th


Kayserispor can rightfully be considered one of the most consistent teams in the Super Lig. Last season was the exception which, hopefully for them, will prove the rule. After last year’s poor performance the club’s board decided to change coach and placed their trust in Shota Arveladze. The Georgian has experience of Turkish football from a spell with Trabzonspor and arrives fresh from the assistant coach’s job at AZ Alkmaar.

Arveladze will be counting on a team which is very young; there is not one player over 30 except Souleymanu Hamidou. The Georgian has signed countryman Aleksandr Amisulashvili to add steel to the defence, while experience has arrived in the shape of Kennedy Bakircioglu and Jonathan Santana. With a combination of younger players and experienced heads, together with a new hungry coach, Kayserispor should be a breath of fresh air for the league.

Key arrivals: Andre Moritz (Kasimpasa); Kennedy Bakircioglu (Ajax); Jonathan Santana (Wolfsburg); Selim Teber (Eintracht Frankfurt); Aleksandr Amisulashvili (Spartak Nalchik)
Key departures: Aydin Toscali (Ankaragucu); Ali Turan (Galatasaray); Hakan Aslantas (released); Gökhan Emreciksin (released)
Prediction: 8th

Istanbul BSB

Still under the same coach as the past four years, this stability has brought Istanbul BSB success one step at a time. Two years ago the club finished 12th, but last season they ended up sixth; quite an impressive improvement. There are no flash statements here and the players that do arrive are always just what is needed, nothing more, nothing less. This year Istanbul BSB have brought in just three players and two of these look like wise buys indeed.

Free from pressure they should equal last season’s feat and it should be noted they play the best football in the league.
Key arrivals: Cihan Haspolatli (Ankaragucu); Samuel Holmen (Brondby)
Key departures: Okan Buruk (retired)
Prediction: 6th


A regular top ten finisher in normal circumstances, last year Ankaragucu had to fight against the drop. New manager Umit Ozat has experience as an assistant to both Christoph Daum and Roger Lemerre and has surely learned much from two talented trainers.

Ozat has built a team based on Eastern European players – including three Slovakian internationals – like Michal Zewlakow, Robert Vittek, Marek Sapara, Stanislav Sestak and Jan Rajnoch. As a result of this Ankaragucu will play with a certain amount of physical strength and that will work well in the Super Lig. The performances of their foreign arrivals will determine just what the side do this season, but they should push to re-establish themselves in the top ten.

Key arrivals: Stanislav Sestak (Bochum); Michael Zewlakow (Olympiacos); Hürriyet Gücer (Ankaraspor)
Key departures: Serkan Kirintili (released); Cihan Haspolatli (Istanbul BSB); Elyasa Süme (Gaziantepspor)
Prediction: 11th



Last time around Gaziantepspor finished well below their own expectations: With just a few defeats more they could have easily been relegated. Such a poor display led the board to dispense with the services of Jose Couceiro and bring in Tolunay Kafkas. Upon the new boss’s arrival the elderly defence was reorganised and young players brought in.

The true strength of this side is its midfield, with talented youngsters Murat Ceylan, Ahmet Ari, Olcan Adin, Cristian Zurita, Erman Ozgur and Ivan. Kafkas has wisely not tinkered with this area of the side and concentrated on boosting his attacking options with Ismael Sosa and Mehmet Yilmaz. If the new coach can impose his mentality upon the team then a top ten finish should be assured. In particular Murat Ceylan, Ismael Sosa and tough striker Julio Cesar could have excellent campaigns.

Key arrivals: Ismael Sosa (Argentinos Juniors); Emre Güngör (Galatasaray); Elyasa Sume (Ankaragucu)
Key departures: Armand Deumi (Karabukspor); Recep Biler (Manisaspor); Stjepan Tomas (Bucaspor)
Prediction: 9th


A newcomer to the Super Lig and a little bit different than all the other sides. The main sponsor of this team is the city’s working class, which is unusual in Turkey. With such hardcore and serious support they topped the 1. League.

Karabukspor have followed Bucaspor’s lead and brought in a while host of new players, but the manager remains. The team of the coal miners signed 12 players, including Romanian winger Florin Cernat and Croatian international Anthony Seric. While they have signed some names of note, Karabukspor have also kept key stars like Emmanuel Emenike and Yasin Avci at the club. Emmenike especially will have a key role to play with his pace on the counter attack away from home. Should the club manage to survive it would be a huge success.

Key arrivals: Florin Cernat (Hajduk Split); Anthony Seric (Besiktas); Armand Deumi (Gaziantepspor); Emil Angelov (Denizlispor); Tozo (Genclerbirligi)
Key departures: Burak Akdis (Boluspor); Sertan Vardar (K. Erciyesspor)
Prediction: 16th


Manisaspor are another of the clubs which only secured safety from the drop in the dying weeks of last season. Again here that has pushed the board to launch a mini-revolution and a new coach and several new players have come to strengthen the squad. New boss Hakan Kutlu signed eight players including Nicolae Dica from Serie A club Catania and one-time Nigerian wonderkid Isaac Promise.

Many of the new arrivals will slot straight into the first eleven and were each key players at their respective clubs. Losing Guven Varol and Mehmet Nas will mean a loss of strength from the midfield, but those brought in should be able to replace them.

Hakan Kutlu is a young and ambitious manager and with the new faces combined with experienced performers he can ensure Manisaspor stay clear of relegation trouble.

Key arrivals: Nicolae Dica (Catania); Isaac Promise (Trabzonspor); Ömer Aysan (Trabzonspor); Gökhan Emreciksin (Kayserispor); Kahe (Genclerbirligi)
Key departures: Guven Varol (Ankaragucu); Mehmet Nas (Sivasspor)
Prediction: 12th


German coach Thomas Doll has added to his team after last season and in truth this was needed because he lacked the means to bring in many reinforcements last summer. This year Doll has reorganised the side and knows much more about the Super Lig. The German has offloaded a number of players and brought in many more tireless workhorses who will die for the shirt. Ermin Zec, a young and talented Bosnian, can be the creative outlet of the side, having scored 39 goals and clocked up 12 assists in 79 games at his old club.

Doll and his team played a good brand of football last year, but a run of bad luck stopped them making the upper echelons. This time around Genclerbirligi should be more successful, even if losing captain Ilhan Eker to Fenerbahce is a big blow.

Key arrivals: Ermin Zec (HB Sibenik); Billy Mehmet (St. Mirren); Michael Stewart (Hearts)
Key departures: Ilhan Eker (Fenerbahce); Tozo (Karabukspor)
Predicition: 9th


Medical Park Antalyaspor

Last season Antalyaspor were one of the surprises of the Super Lig. Young boss Mehmet Ozdilek imposed his mentality on the team and build a brave and quality side from a group of unheralded players. This season Ozdilek has kept hold of the majority of his performers while taking the opportunity to revamp his defence with the experienced Deniz Baris and Tuna Uzumucu.

The team will rely on Necati Ates who is a vital player. Last season he bagged 17 goals and clocked up six assists and he will need to be on form. What could stop Ozdilek’s march is that so many of the new faces will be key to the side and could need some time to bed in.

Key arrivals: Grégory Proment (Caen); Deniz Baris (Fenerbahce); Tuna Uzumcu (Bursaspor); Ivan Radeljic (Genclerbirligi)
Key departures: Yalcin Ayhan (Gaziantepspor); Senol Can (Gaziantepspor); Orhan Ak (Bucaspor); Korhan Ozturk (Kasimpasaspor)
Prediction: 14th


Newly promoted Konyaspor have made radical changes to their squad: Coach Ziya Dogan signed 21 players and sold 18. Most of the new arrivals come from Eastern Europe and Dogan intends to build a team to fight for every ball on the pitch. Former Parma player Johnnier Montano will be a crucial figure in the midfield and defender Mahamoudou Kere needs to hit the ground running.

Making a team with 21 new faces is going to be really hard for Dogan, but the coach is talented and knows his way around the Super Lig. Konyaspor will play tough, effective football and could get some surprise points, but realistically they are big big favourites to go straight back down.

Key arrivals:
Johnier Montano (Allianza Lima); Mahamoudou Kere (Charleroi)
Key departures: Tayfun Turkmen (released)
Prediction: 18th


Sivasspor’s golden era – fourth in 2007/08 and second in 2008/09 – is a thing of the past and a return to a top five finish looks a long way away. Mesut Bakkal however is a good manager and is well aware of what it takes to be successful in the Super Lig. Sivasspor lost key players in the shape of Musa Aydin, Ibrahim Dagasan and Michael Petkovic, but there are hopes the new arrivals can fill the holes left.

Bakkal cannot work miracles overnight however and when he arrived to take over the club in the last eight weeks of the season he helped keep them up when many believed they were heading through the trapdoor. The coach can keep Sivasspor in the Super Lig, but he will need longer to do more than that.

Key arrivals: Mehmet Nas (Manisaspor); Ceyhun Eris (Assyriska); Ricardo Suarez (Steaua Bucuresti); Sead Ramovic (Tromso)
Key departures: Musa Aydin (Bucaspor); Ibrahim Dagasan (Bucaspor); Michael Petkovic (Melbourne Victory)
Prediction: 15th


The team from a small district of Istanbul played quality football last year and captured the hearts of football lovers everywhere. It wasn’t enough to get them a top ten finish though – they ended up eleventh – but coach Yilmaz Vural keeping them up was reward enough. This year Kasimpasaspor have lost a clutch of key players like Andre Moritz, Murat Erdogan and Koray Avci. These were crucial to Vural’s tactical setup and will be big losses.

Some players have arrived and the club’s fans hope Fernando Varela Ramos can be a good acquisition from La Liga, but the jury is out on whether Vural can repeat last season’s heroics. Staying in the league is going to be tough.

Key arrivals: Fernando Varela Ramos (Mallorca); Korhan Ozturk (Antalyaspor); Ersen Martin (Manisaspor)
Key departures: Murat Erdogan (released); Koray Avci (C.Rizespor); Andre Moritz (Kayserispor)
Prediciton: 17th