Learning About What Jozy At Beşiktaş Means

Is the Hull City veteran bound for Beşiktaş?

Update: Reports are coming in this morning, August 4th, confirming a move for Altidore to Beşiktaş. This article was originally published on July 29th, 2010.

This is a guest column for TSG by Michael Cecire.

When the rumor mill began humming with suggestions linking 20-year old USMNT vet and ex-Hull forward Jozy Altidore to the storied Dutch club Ajax, US fans were, for the most part, delighted. Likely with a thought to

A young Run DMB at PSV...

Damarcus Beasley’s famous run at PSV Eindhoven and the impressive development that brought Michael Bradley to the Bundesliga, US fans were understandably excited about the idea of Jozy with a big club in a highly technical, competitive Western European league.

Another rumor with some heft sees Jozy tied to serious inquiries by Istanbul-based Beşiktaş (pronounced besh-ik-tash). However, it provoked quite less excitement among the US soccer faithful.

In some cases, fans expressed outright bewilderment at what many saw as the club’s relative anonymity in the firmament of international club soccer. But while many Americans (and, admittedly, many Europeans) could not tell you much of anything about the Turkish league or Beşiktaş, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile option for America’s potential at striker.

As a proud owner of a Beşiktaş Black Eagles jersey, there may be some bias in my comments, but the facts speak for themselves. The Turkish league (AKA Turkcell SüperLig) is a tough competition. And while it’s generally a good habit to disregard UEFA’s coefficient system of ranking, Turkey’s enviable spot at 9th in the most recent rankings (one above Ajax’s Holland league, apparently) does justify a closer look.

Young Black Eagles fans: "So is this Jozy guy any good?"

Beşiktaş occupies the upper strata of Turkish soccer, being one of the so-called “Big Three” of old, big Istanbul clubs that perennially dominant Turkey’s top flight since, oh, time immemorial. Besides Beşiktaş, the three includes Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe.

Galatasaray might be familiar to you–especially Socceroos fans–for a lineup that includes both Harry Kewell and Aussie national team captain Lucas Neill. For the rest, you may have heard of guys like Brad Friedel, who made 30 appearances for them in the mid-1990s, and Giovani Dos Santos, who went there on loan this past season.

And Fenerbahçe, which is often held up as the Manchester United (or the NY Yankees – pick your poison) of Turkish soccer, includes Uruguayan international Diego Lugano and had apparently tried to compete with AC Milan for the services of one Oguchi Onyewu after his standout performance in America’s Confederations Cup run in 2009.

The Black Eagles have a storied program....

Beşiktaş is no slouch.

It has won 11 national titles since it formed way back in 1903 (Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe have won 17 each), and reached the European Cup quarterfinals in 1987 and the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) final in 2003.

But probably more importantly, their 4th places finish last year – after winning it all in 2009 – will give Jozy the opportunity to play against European competition in the Europa League. At the same time, Jozy could benefit (or wilt?) from the intensity of playing for a big club that commands big expectations from a rabidly loyal, swollen fan base in the heart of one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic cities.

Besides the always bruising derbies between Beşiktaş and the other Istanbul clubs, the grip by the Big Three is beginning to wane and a degree of parity is starting to creep into Turkish soccer as clubs become more creative at acquiring talent and foreign signings become both cheaper and simpler. Last year, a surprising run by Bursaspor, a smaller club out of the industrial city of Bursa, marked the first time that a team outside of the Big Three, or Trabzonspor, had ever won the league title.

But should Jozy should make the move to Istanbul?”

That’s a complicated question. Certainly, Beşiktaş is a strong club in a highly competent league, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good fit. More prosaic questions linger: will he get playing time? Is the Turkish brand of soccer a good match? Will Jozy get service from a midfield, something badly missing during his spell at Hull?

Will Big Jeezy muscle his way into the line-up in Turkey?

If Jozy were to go to Beşiktaş, he’d be in fine company. Real Madrid stalwart Guti has just recently signed with the Turkish giants, as did Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma, which should put to rest any questions over the quality of the midfield being fielded by their new manager, former Real Madrid helmsman Bernd Schuster.

Schuster generally employs the standard 4-4-2 and emphasizes a creative, attacking style of play. This will meld well with the tools he’ll have at his disposal, particularly considering that Turkish play is known to be both physical and technical. Jozy, coming off a loan at Hull, has learned to compensate for a lack of midfield service by untying defenses and employing his physical gifts to keep up in the English game. Slotted up top in Schuster’s 4-4-2, Jozy will be able to apply his physical presence well while re-capturing his penchant for goal-scoring and will be in a good environment to develop his technique, as barreling runs can only get you so far on the Turkish pitch.

Playing time is less sure. On one hand, the interest from the Black Eagles for Jozy’s services suggest that they think he has what it takes to be a successful attacker in their formation. On the other hand, their eagerness to buy his contract from Villareal might mean he’s being seen as a project player. However, although Beşiktaş has stout options in their midfield, their forward pool is still a work in progress.

The Brazilian Bobo...

One of the team’s most successful attackers, Slovakian international Filip Holosko, has been faced with bouts of injury and inconsistent form. Brazilian striker Bobo, known to be adept at punching holes through defenses while holding the ball, is a likely candidate for one of the top slots, as is Brazil-born-turned-Turkish player Mert Nobre (nee Marcio Ferreira Nobre). Overall, however, Schuster’s options are generally limited and it’s likely that Jozy’s skills will be put to use fairly quickly to compensate for some depth issues up top.

Finally, although Turkish soccer does not occupy the same level of exposure in North America and Western Europe as it does in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, there’s no doubt that managers and talent scouts have no qualms about poaching the Turkish leagues for players. Many who have cut their teeth in the Turkish leagues have gone on to bigger clubs in bigger leagues – both managers and players alike.

So, should you be rushing out to buy a Black Eagles kit already? Best to wait. Aside from Ajax, which is probably a place Jozy would rather see himself go – if only for the same instinctual biases that many of us have or had – there is now talk that evil Fenerbahçe is also angling for his services. For many reasons, partly selfish and partly because Jozy’s place in Schuster’s lineup would be better assured, I think he’d be better off with Beşiktaş. Either way, there is a life for players after the EPL, and definitely so in a tough competition like Turkey’s. Also, Istanbul definitely beats out Leeds for standard of living …

Addendum from TSG: One thing that will be interesting to watch if Jozy hits Istanbul is the reception at the airport. Turkish fans have a tradition of support their own fervently upon transfer into or back to the league, but conversely showing just how excited they are for a potential non-Turkish transfer by the numbers than come out in support at the airport. Should be–potentially–fun to watch.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by s44 on 2010/07/29 at 12:06 PM

    What about the language issue? (Is there one?)

    Reply

  2. Posted by Marc C on 2010/07/29 at 12:27 PM

    TSG,

    First Time Caller, Long Time Listener here

    I love the updates and information on our Yanks along with the reasoning behind transfer rumors. I have one major question that you may be able to shed some light on.

    Why would Villarreal look to loan/transfer Jozy out this season?

    Here are some talking points that you could help me on
    1. Villarreal is rather thin up front in their own right
    2. Rossi and Nilmar are the most senior members
    3. They look to be rather small in stature on the front line as well (no one over 6′)
    4. With the possibility of Europa League (pending Mallorca’s suspension) they will need a bit larger squad than they currently have

    Now I know they are either looking for some return for the big sum they paid for Jozy a few years back, or they want him to get first team football in, but really first team football (Europa Lge included) may be staring them right in the face.

    Comments and thoughts appreciated.

    Thanks

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/07/29 at 12:44 PM

      Marc:

      Thanks for listening. :>

      Here’s a background article from April that is still somewhat relevant:

      http://theshinguardian.com/2010/04/25/jozy-altidore-a-place-to-call-home/

      I think with Altidore, it doesn’t appear that he fits into Villarreal’s plans. Even when they brought him in, he went right out on loan.

      Villarreal is in some financial difficulty, so the reality is they may need to sell someone and it appears that Altidore’s skill set may fit better in another league. I know not everyone agrees with me on that comment.

      As a marketing move, Nilmar, given his success and have a good shot at being in the homeside come 2014 will stay around. After that, I think Villarreal is looking for the best offer it can get, relative to production and maturity, for Rossi and Altidore.

      My guess is that they think Altidore won’t help them in the near future so they’ll take what they can get.

      That’s my two-seconds, quick answer on it.

      Reply

      • Posted by Marc C on 2010/07/29 at 1:01 PM

        Thanks for the quick update. I did miss that article back in April and it is a great read. I agree that Nilmar and Rossi hold down the top 2 spots at Villarreal, but I did overlook their financial situation. Either way I still think they are lucky to get $6-7M for him and a loan is much more likely. My next question is, does he end up as the first man out with Nobre and Bobo? Not to mention their stable of wingers at Besiktas with Holosko, Quaresma and Kahveci. Furthermore, pending Mario Ballotellis sale to City, is Rossi rumored out of Villarreal? I would think he generates a higher number that Jozy?

        Keep up the good work!

        Reply

  3. Posted by mhikaric on 2010/07/29 at 12:48 PM

    @s44 – That’s a good point to raise. I was about to mention that the Dutch speak Dutch, but they also usually speak English pretty damned well, too. Turkey is definitely no Holland, and Turkish is in no way related to any language that Jozy has probably had to try out. That said, Istanbul is a modern, cosmopolitan city with plenty of English speakers, which probably include a fair amount of his squad and the Besiktas management.

    Also, this is kind of an intangible, but Turkish is a surprisingly simple language to learn. Not easy, mind you, but the grammar is remarkably regular and predictable, which would make learning it not as much of a challenge for Jozy as, say, Dutch.

    All that aside, I think Jozy would have a tough time skipping out on big, first-team opportunities because of possible language barriers. If I were Jozy, I’d be thinking more about the pluses: Turkish beaches, amazing food, and the ease with which he can come visit me in Tbilisi if he so chooses.

    @Marc C – The show hosts may be better at answering this, but I’ll give it a shot. I think you make some really good points here, but we may be at a point where Villareal, which probably does see Jozy’s talent, etc., just is tired of having him around. Sometimes that just happens. The management may feel that Jozy could have what it takes down the road, but doesn’t want to spend more into refining Jozy into the player they hope to have when they could just sell him off and buy someone who hits the ground running. I think that may be particularly true now that they’re weaker up top and possibly headed into European competition. But that’s just my take.

    Reply

  4. Posted by kaya on 2010/07/29 at 1:48 PM

    *Everyone* in Holland speaks english, and I mean fluently. It’s kind of freaky, actually.
    When I went to Turkey, I was told that everyone speaks english, but for the most part, this means the shopkeepers know numbers in english (hell, they would even accept dollars and euros.)
    That said, Istanbul is a very international city with a ton of expats from all over.
    Dutch is quite closely related to English whereas Turkish isn’t at all, so I doubt Turkish would be as easy for an English speaker to learn. Jozy strikes me as an outgoing and adaptable person, so I think he’ll find a way to fit in at least linguistically. He just better like haggling for prices over everything. Like, really, everything =)

    Reply

  5. Posted by Nelson on 2010/07/29 at 2:23 PM

    I have Turkish friends who love their country and soccer. I dont’ think Jozy would suffer from the language barrier. How bad was Federico Macheda’s English last night at the All-Star Game. I’d feel bad for him except he’s an amazing forward. Jozy just has to speak with his moves.

    Reply

  6. Posted by s44 on 2010/07/29 at 9:13 PM

    Looks like a possible loan deal to Trabzonspor?

    Reply

  7. Posted by Dylan on 2010/07/30 at 1:59 PM

    At one point there were some rumors of Jozy coming back as a DP for New York for a season, and while I think it would be great, I find it mildly comical that he would be fighting for minutes up top with that team as well.

    Reply

  8. Posted by AJK on 2010/07/30 at 8:21 PM

    Turks generally treat every incoming transfer as a potential savior. Especially 6’2″ 21-y-o ones.

    As a Galatasaray-American id be thrilled to have Jozy come bul-side and would have no problem becoming a club bigamist to do it. Shoot, if he gets to Istanbul after I return from vacation, Ill be in the airport to greet him. The black eagles would probably be a very good fit, as hed be the 3rd or 4th striker with an older Nihat as well as the aforementioned dudes.

    The fans are rather intense here and the environment is fantastic. I came to Istanbul when I was 20…Im sure he could learn to love it as much as I did.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Soccernst on 2010/08/04 at 9:06 AM

    Two wishes for Mssr Altidore:
    1. PT
    2. Goals

    Reply

  10. Posted by KMac on 2010/08/05 at 4:34 AM

    You mention DMB and Bradley and their respective success in the Netherlands. John O’Brien’s development and success at Ajax also comes to mind.
    Shame Jozy couldn’t have gone to Ajax or a similar club earlier in his development. Still, a move now would only help, but looks like the Turkish deal is done.
    KM

    Reply

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