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Turkey’s premier football clubs have embarked on a bold journey in the recent transfer window, enticing established talents such as Mauro Icardi, Hakim Ziyech, and Wilfried Zaha to the Süper Lig. However, this extravagant spending spree has pushed these clubs further into financial uncertainty, as reported by Agence France-Presse.
While the spotlight has often been on the extravagant transfer spending of Saudi clubs, Turkish teams have quietly secured some big-name signings.
Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş, and Trabzonspor, the four giants of the Süper Lig, collectively spent nearly 120 million euros ($128 million) during the summer transfer window, which concluded on Friday in Turkey. In contrast, they received less than 80 million euros in transfer fees.
Galatasaray’s Vice President, Erden Timur, described the transfer window as fiercely competitive, revealing that Turkish clubs were compelled to alter their strategies due to inflated player fees driven by the emergence of Saudi clubs. He stated, “The average player price doubled, or even tripled, so we had to adapt our approach. We had budget constraints and had to turn to free agents.”
Galatasaray, for instance, made several high-profile acquisitions. Former Crystal Palace star Zaha joined on a free transfer, while Ziyech and Tanguy Ndombele arrived on loan deals from Chelsea and Tottenham, respectively. Argentine striker Icardi was secured from Paris Saint-Germain for just 10 million euros after a successful loan spell last season, and defender Davinson Sanchez was signed for 9.5 million euros from Spurs.
Fenerbahçe also made notable signings, including Cengiz Under from Marseille and Brazil midfielder Fred from Manchester United. Besiktas welcomed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Eric Bailly on free transfers from Liverpool and Manchester United, respectively. Meanwhile, Trabzonspor added Nicolas Pepe when his Arsenal contract expired.
Despite the big signings, reigning Turkish champion Galatasaray reduced its summer spending to 30 million euros compared to 43 million euros in the previous year.
However, the high salaries, which amount to over 90 million euros for the upcoming season just for Galatasaray and arch-rivals Fenerbahçe, pose a significant risk of pushing debt-ridden clubs into financial turmoil.
Economist Kerem Akbaş, who authored a book on Turkish football finances, disclosed that the top four clubs collectively had a debt of two billion euros by the end of August. Sports journalist Alp Ulagay highlighted that although some recruits were obtained at a low cost due to the expiration of their contracts, their salaries far exceed the clubs’ revenue.
Furthermore, the devaluation of the Turkish lira against the euro and the US dollar has diminished the significance of TV rights for Turkish clubs. Only European competitions can offer a lifeline for Turkish clubs to recoup their expenditures, with Galatasaray being the sole Süper Lig representative in this season’s Champions League.
Akbaş argued that the pressure to appease devoted football fans and executives’ pursuit of fame are compelling clubs to spend beyond their means. He noted that while some salaries are covered by sponsors, UEFA does not endorse this practice, and the clubs are essentially managed by fans through social media, which puts them in a precarious financial position.
In a rather ironic twist, the government permits these financial maneuvers; otherwise, based on their financial statements, these clubs would have faced bankruptcy long ago.
Despite the financial risks, Turkish clubs show no signs of slowing down in their pursuit of marquee signings. Beyond the top four teams, familiar faces like Mario Balotelli have also returned to Turkey, with the former Manchester City and Inter Milan striker signing for a second spell with Adana Demirspor on deadline day.
Source: with agencies