The Touchline

Five More Minutes of Football
— Every Tuesday and Thursday

Join The Touchline - a free, twice weekly newsletter with analysis, stories and interviews from the world of football.

The SPECIAL ONE Joins Fenerbahce

5 minute read Published June 3, 2024

Turkish football, and Fenerbahce in particular, had a very turbulent season. They had their players attacked, opposing supporters stormed the pitch and attacked players, a game scheduled in Saudi Arabia moved for political reasons and then they left the field in protest of a tight schedule when the game was actually played. To name a few incidents.

On the pitch, when they actually played, though, they were great. Fenerbahce lost only one game in the league all season. Edin Dzeko trailed only Mauro Icardi as the top scorer, with 21 goals. They got an incredible 99 points. 

The problem? Galatasaray got 101 points. In the last 10 years no team has gotten over 90 points before (hard to compare though as the league expanded from 18 to 20 teams in 2022.) In 2022 Trabzonspor won the league with just 81 points. So, to not win it with 99 points is unheard of.

Upcoming Election

Another factor this year is the upcoming election for president at Fenerbahce SK. The current president, Ali Koc, has held the position since 2018. Since then, Fenerbahce has failed to win the league. Meanwhile, fierce rivals, Galatasaray, have managed to win three times. This year makes two in a row. 

Ali Koc. Photo: Shutterstock.

It’s fair to say, though, that they are improving. The Istanbul club has now finished second three seasons in a row. The year before they finished third. But, to Fenerbahce supporters, winning is all that matters. So while he won the last election by a landslide, in the upcoming election, Ali Koc will be contested. After the end of the season, despite getting 99 points and only losing a single game, supporters were tearing up images of Koc.

Maybe that’s why the decision was made to replace Ismail Kartal as manager at the club. Jose Mourinho is a huge name and a world class manager. With his back against the wall, Koc may have needed to make big changes, bring in a big name, to have any hope of being reelected. The first rumoured candidate for the job was AC Milan's Stefano Pioli. That idea, however, was not popular with supporters, and perhaps because of that, they moved on to more of a crowd pleaser.

Jose Mourinho. Photo: Shutterstock.

Much like the singing of a marquee player would be, his presentation was held at ┼×ukru Saracoglu Stadium, Fenerbahce's home turf. The noise was deafening. Mourinho’s “us vs them”-style of rallying was received with even louder noise. The fit between manager and supporters seems perfect.

Some quotes from his presentation:

From this moment, I belong to your family. This shirt is my skin.

From the moment I sign the contract; your dreams are now my dreams.

Mourinho’s Squad

The team that Mourinho takes over is an old one. The average age of the squad is 28.6. The teams top scorer, Edin Dzeko, is 38. The top assister, Dusan Tadic, is 35. Bonucci, the centre back legend, will not be playing though, as he’s retiring at 37. 

He’ll also be reunited with Fred, a player that Mourinho famously never wanted at Manchester United and that spent a lot of time on the bench. It remains to be seen if Mourinho’s stance on the Brazilian midfielder has softened since then.

Speaking of reuniting, it’s rumoured that Mourinho has requested a few transfers already. Lukaku, who’s been on loan from Mourinho’s former club Chelsea at his last club Roma, is said to be one of his targets. The Belgian striker is not wanted at Chelsea and his stock isn’t as high as it used to be. Maybe luring him to Turkey is possible. 

His other request is said to be Paulo Dybala. This transfer seems more unlikely though. Dybala has a low release clause, so it’s possible they’d be able to afford him. But the reason he got the release clause was to be open to moving to a bigger club than Roma. Considering that, maybe the next destination he has in mind isn’t Fenerbahce, even if they're one of the biggest clubs in Turkey.

Paulo Dybala. Photo: Shutterstock.

Well, it’s an old team. Ali Koc has promised that they wouldn’t sell players they wanted to keep, as well as keep strengthening the squad where needed. But Mourinho has his work cut out for him. It’s a very competitive league where you can get 99 points and not win. It’s not just Galatasaray either. The Super Lig has been won by four different teams in the last five years. Most games will be very tough.

He’s also got a very tough season to follow. Even if they finished second, they only lost one game all season. Ismail Kartal also got them to the quarter finals of the Europa League. 

European cups is where Mourinho shines. He got Roma their first European title in the modern era by winning the Conference League 2022. Maybe he should have gotten the Europa League in 2023 as well, if it weren't for some refereeing decisions that went against the club. Fenerbahce are automatically qualified for the Champions League after finishing second. Surely, Mouriho will give them the best chance in a long time to make a deep run.

Looking Forward

Regardless, it’s great to have Mourinho back in management. He’s incredibly interesting to listen to as a pundit but it’s on the touchline that he really shines. His antics will surely bother supporters of rival clubs and be loved by the Fenerbahce ones.

Football Stories Like This, Twice a Week

Join thousands of subscribers getting The Touchline - a free, twice weekly newsletter with analysis, stories and interviews from the world of football.