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
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.
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.