This article was in todays version of Turkish daily news. It is a very interesting article so I thought it deserved its own thread.
It is a bit sad.
It is a bit sad.
What a difference 3 years can make!
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Of the Turkish14 players in the last World Cup finals, only five, Rustu, Yildiray, Bulent, Okan and Emre, are in the squad for the Albania and Georgia matches. The rest have, for one reason or another, fallen by the wayside. Not even the shadow of the 2002 'golden generation' remains
ANKARA -Turkish Daily News
Turkey is between World Cup qualifiers today. The first of them at home to Albania was being played as we went to press yesterday. The second, away to Georgia, takes place in Tbilisi on Wednesday. We do not know the result of last night's game but even if Turkey beat Albania and goes on to do the same to Georgia, it will still be far from certain of qualifying for next year's finals in Germany.
This is a far cry from the glory days of 2002 when Turkey not only reached the finals in Japan and South Korea but stood international soccer on its ear by finishing third, losing only to champion Brazil. Its final match in that campaign was the third place playoff against the Korean co-host.
Here is how Turkey lined up:
Rustu Recber, Fatih Akyel, Alpay Ozalan, Bulent Korkmaz, Umit Davala (Okan Buruk, 76), Tugay Kerimoglu, Yildiray Basturk (Tayfur Havutcu, 86), Emre Belozoglu (Hakan Unsal, 41), Ergun Penbe, Ilhan Mansiz, Hakan Sukur. Of those 14 players, only five, Rustu, Yildiray, Bulent, Okan and Emre, are in the squad for the Albania and Georgia matches. The rest have, for one reason or another, fallen by the wayside. Not even the shadow of the 2002 'golden generation' remains. Here we take a look at what has happened to yesterday's heroes.
Rustu Recber (Fenerbahce): Rustu is amongst the survivors because even though his form is suspect nowadays there is still no other Turkish goalkeeper who can touch him for class. He went off to Spain in 2003 to join Barcelona but could not catch the eye of Barca coach Frank Rijkaard and returned to Fenerbahce on loan in January. The most capped keeper in Turkish history, he is currently keeping Volkan Demirel, the man who may prove to be his eventual successor, out of the Fener side.
Fatih Akyel (Vfl Bochum): Fatih had more pitch time than any other player on Turkey's squad at the 2002 World Cup but has had a thin time since due largely to his own behavior. After a very unhappy period in Spain he came back to Turkey to join not his former club Galatasaray but Fenerbahce.
Although he initially did well enough at Fener, his arrogant attitude did not endear him to his team mates and his habit of fighting with referees and opponents, resulting in seemingly endless suspensions, caused him to lose the esteem of the fans and ultimately of coach Christoph Daum.
He continues to insist that he wanted to try his luck abroad again but the truth is that Fener kicked him out and no other club in Turkey was prepared to offer him the kind of money he thought he was worth. Sure enough he has been in trouble again in Germany. He was dropped from the Bochum squad recently after allegedly striking a team mate and spitting at the coach. Fatih claims that what happened has been exaggerated and he will soon be back on the squad. We shall see.
Alpay Ozalan (Urawa Red Diamonds): The English tabloid press turned Alpay, then an Aston Villa player, into a hate figure after a bustup with David Beckham during a European Championship qualifier in Istanbul in 2003. Villa released him as a result. He went off to the Far East, first to Incheon United in South Korea and then to the Urawa Red Diamonds.
He made himself a hero by helping the Diamonds to the Japanese J League championship but has failed to win back his place on the national team. He has said that he is moving back to England to join Southampton next season. Whether that will help him catch the eye of Turkey's coach Ersun Yanal is another matter.
Bulent Korkmaz (Galatasaray): Galatasaray captain Bulent Korkmaz is now 38 years old and unable to command a first team place with his club side. He is on Yanal's present national squad not because the coach intends to play him but because he believes that Bulent is a valuable influence on the younger players. The only Turkish player to have reached a century of caps, Bulent may very well decide to retire at the end of the season.
Umit Davala (Werder Bremen): Umit is one of the 2002 players who has never looked the same since. He is also another who left Turkey and came back. He joined AC Milan from Galatasaray but hardly played there. AC traded his registration to neighbor Inter as part of a complex player exchange deal and Inter loaned him back to Galatasaray. The Istanbul club did not exercise its option to purchase and he Umit is now in the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen where he has been plagued by injuries in recent times.
Okan Buruk (Besiktas): Okan returned to Turkey from Inter Milan last summer and joined Besiktas, a move which was thoroughly unpopular with the fans of his old team Galatasaray. At first he was a guaranteed starter for Besiktas coach Vicente Del Bosque but he gradually fell out of favor and lost his first team place. He has not regained it since Riza Calimbay took over from Del Bosque but it seems Ersun Yanal still has faith in him.
Tugay Kerimoglu (Blackburn Rovers): Tugay announced his decision to step down from the international game in 2003. He is still on the books of Blackburn Rovers but has not been a regular since his mentor, coach Graeme Souness, moved on and is another player who is surely close to retirement.
Yildiray Basturk (Hertha Berlin): Yildiray is one man we can expect to be around for some years to come, though he is something of an enigma. A speedy and undoubtedly skilful midfielder, he has yet to fulfil his potential at international level. Although Hertha was willing to offer big money to lure him away from Bayer Leverkusen when his contract there expired last year, some would say that he has never fulfilled it at club level either.
Tayfur Havutcu (Besiktas): Besiktas captain Tayfur is another man who is approaching the veteran stage. In addition to the captaincy, Besiktas has made him team manager and it would be no surprise if he went into administration full time at the end of the season. The national team is already missing him. There are few players who work as hard as Tayfur and fewer who can assume as many different roles. Goalkeeper is about the only position he has not played during his long and distinguished career.
Emre Belozoglu (Inter Milan): Like Yildiray, Emre will be with us for some time yet. He was a rising star in 2002 and although he has been in and out of the Inter team, he has continued to enhance his reputation. Besiktas and Fenerbahce are reported to be in competition to sign him for next season but he says that he intends to stay abroad even if Inter releases him. Should that happen there will be no shortage of offers for the most gifted Turkish midfielder of his generation.
Hakan Unsal (Galatasaray): Hakan's international days are surely over. He is another returnee, in his case from Blackburn where he had a brief spell with Tugay and Souness, but these days he cannot usually find a place on the Galatasaray first team with coach Gheorghe Hagi preferring Orhan Ak in the left wing back role and Hakan is becoming increasingly injury prone these days.
Ergun Penbe (Galatasaray): Despite his having to be classified in the golden oldie class, a return to the national colors for Ergun at some point down the line is not entirely to be ruled out. He has recently won his place on the Galatasaray team back and has been doing well. Possessed of the most educated left foot in the Turkish game with the possible exception of Emre's, his biggest problem is that he is slowing down and he was never in the greyhound class to begin with.
Ilhan Mansiz (Hertha Berlin): Ilhan is a player we may never see again, at least not as he used to be. The Besiktas board (who have since been replaced themselves) were laughing all the way to the bank when they sold him to J League team Vissel Kobe for $5 million. They knew perfectly well that he had knee problems which could rule him out of the game at any time. The Kobe club was evidently prepared to take the risk because of the pop star style reputation Ilhan established in Japan in 2002.
It lost the bet. Ilhan was released last year with a serious knee injury which needed major surgery. He is now back in training with Hertha (he was born and brought up in Germany and his estranged partner and their infant daughter are living there) and reports say that he is close to full fitness. But the knee has already broken down once since the operation and his career could be over.
Hakan Sukur (Galatasaray): The man the fans call 'King Hakan' arrived back at Galatasaray in 2004 after largely unsuccessful spells with Inter Milan, Parma and Blackburn. A debate continues to rage over whether he should be playing for Turkey or not. He is Turkey's leading scorer in history and has more international goals to his credit than all the members of the current squad put together but Ersun Yanal refuses to select him, saying that Hakan does not fit the style he is trying to establish.
However, Yanal has selected Denizlispor's Ersen Martin, a similar type of player, fueling speculation that his antipathy towards Hakan goes beyond soccer. At the moment it appears that Hakan's only hope of a comeback for Turkey is a change of coach.
Disintegration: It might be assumed that several of the 22-man squad in South Korea who did not play in the third place match are still around but that is not the case. The only one Yanal has picked for the Albania and Georgia matches is reserve keeper Omer Catkic of Genclerbirligi. He would certainly have picked another if Real Sociedad striker Nihat Kahveci had been fit, though Nihat was almost as much a fringe figure as Omer in 2002.
That team was built by Yanal's predecessor Senol Gunes on the one which Mustafa Denizli took to the Euro 2000 quarterfinals and that in turn was built on Fatih Terim's Euro 1996 side. The 2002 squad included several players who were already going over the hill or about to do so and it thus contained the seeds of its own destruction. In less than 3 years it has disintegrated almost completely. What will eventually arise from the ashes is something not even Ersun Yanal can tell us.