Drogba arrives in Istanbul 'in search of passion'
DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELGalatasaray's much-anticipated second star transfer of the midseason, Ivorian striker Didier Drogba, arrived in Istanbul Feb. 8 to a huge reception from Galatasaray supporters. The former Chelsea player had completed a sensational 1.5 year deal with a potential one-year extension.
Drogba gave his first statements to Galatasaray's official television channel. "I was very happy [with] such a warm welcome. I am really very happy to come to Galatasaray. I know the coach, Fatih Terim, very well. A lot of my friends recommended Galatasaray to me, saying that if I wanted passion I should go there."
Drogba added that he also talked with Real Madrid's coach, Jose Mourinho, who told him, "Galatasaray is a fantastic team, Fatih Terim is a fantastic coach and Istanbul is a fantastic city." He emphasized that he was very willing to play with Galatasaray's other star mid-season transfer, Wesley Sneijder, and their goal was to beat Schalke 04 in the Champions League and qualify for the next round.
Boosted by the arrival of Drogba, Galatasaray will hope to get all three points in a difficult game against Medical Park Antalyaspor in the Spor Toto Super League on Feb. 10.
The defending champion leads the standings with 37 points, while Antalyaspor follows with 33 points. Beşiktaş is third with 32 points and Fenerbahçe is fourth with 31.
Galatasaray hopes to extend its lead with a victory over Antalyaspor, but the build-up to the game was dominated by the arrival of Drogba, arguably the highest-profile African player in the world, to Istanbul.
The Ivory Coast superstar arrived in Istanbul on Feb. 8 and joined his new teammates during a training session later in the evening. The 34-year-old is the second blockbuster signing made by Galatasaray during the January transfer window after the purchase of Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan. However, Drogba could only join his new team after Ivory Coast was eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Galatasaray fans gathered at an airport in Yeşilköy to welcome Drogba, who is expected to be a major boost prior to the Champions League tie against Schalke 04.
Drogba will get 10 million euros from Galatasaray once terminating his contract with Shanghai Shenhua after the Chinese club did not meet the requirements of the deal.
Drogba is not expected to be a part of the Galatasaray squad to face Antalyaspor, but the former Chelsea and Marseille icon will watch the game from the stands.
However, coach Fatih Terim is likely to give Sneijder his first start with Galatasaray, since Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo is suspended.
Sneijder, who has made appearances off the bench in his first two league games, will team up with Turkish internationals Hamit Altıntop and Selçuk İnan in the midfield against Antalyaspor.
Fenerbahçe, who suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Sivasspor last week, will visit relegation-battling Mersin İdman Yurdu earlier in the day Feb. 10.
Sivasspor will take on Trabzonspor and Kayserispor will meet Orduspor on Feb. 10 as well.
On Feb. 9, Beşiktaş visits Sanica Boru Elazığspor, Kardemir Karabükspor will play Bursaspor, Gençlerbirliği hosts Eskişehirspor and Istanbul BB takes on bottom-dweller Akhisar.