Little glory in overseas jobs of Turkish gaffers
Turkish coach Fatih Terim (L) hugs famous Portuguese midfielder Rui Costa in this file photo from 2001, when he was at the charge of Italian football club Fiorentina. Hürriyet photoMustafa Denizli’s return to Persepolis may add to the very rare pages of success in Turkish coaches’ ventures abroad.
The veteran Turkish coach signed a contract for 1.5 years last week, marking his return to the Iranian League. The Tehran-based club has been struggling in the first half of the season and called a familiar man, Denizli, to help it return to form.
Denizli has led Tehran’s Pas team to sixth and second-place finishes respectively from 2004 to 2006. The following year, at the helm of Persepolis, he enjoyed a third-place finish in the league before returning to Turkey. However, Denizli, arguably the most successful Turkish coach – being the only man to lead three different teams to the Turkish league title – is of a minority of Turkish coaches that managed to lead a successful period abroad.
Unlike Denizli, Fatih Terim’s stints abroad ended in disappointment. Terim, who is likely to be the first one to challenge Denizli as most successful Turkish coach, has attempted twice to make his mark in the Italian Serie A. After leading Galatasaray to the UEFA Cup in 2000, the first continental trophy won by a Turkish team, Terim was signed by Fiorentina.
The Violets made a bright start to the season, including a 4-0 win over AC Milan, but suffered a slump later in the year. And even a finalist position in the Coppa Italia could not save Terim’s job, especially after he challenged flamboyant club owner Cecchi Gori to make more investments to the team.
The following summer (2001) saw another Italian club go for Terim. This time the prospect was even bigger since it was AC Milan, but Terim’s attacking style proved too risky for the Italian heavyweights, and the Turkish coach was fired only 10 weeks into the new season.
Terim’s two tenures stand as the highest point a Turkish coach has come in European football, but having failed to complete what he started, his attempts fall on the wrong side of the razor-edged line between successes and failures.
Another prominent Turkish coach, Şenol Güneş, made a memorable stint abroad as well. Güneş was the mind behind Turkey’s bronze-medal finish in the 2002 FIFA World Cup thanks to a 3-2 win over co-host South Korea in the third-place playoff. His impact was apparently good for the Koreans, who came knocking on his door in 2006. In 2.5 years at FC Seoul, Güneş enjoyed runner-up finishes in the K-League (2008) and K-League Cup (2007) to make a good mark on the capital.
Another unheralded hero, Muhsin Ertuğral, has won virtually every honor in Africa thanks to his stints with Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town of South Africa. The coach has been so successful in the last two decades that his name was mentioned by the local media as one of the candidates to take over the vacant South African national team after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Ertuğral, unlike the names above, failed to make his mark when he was in Turkey, since his only head coaching job at Sivasspor (2009-10) was largely disappointing.
Rasim Kara, Terim’s sidekick when he led Turkey to the Euro 1996 championship, has spent the last decade abroad, including a Rogers Cup victory in Canada with the Ottawa Wizards in 2002 and successful stints at FK Khazar Lankaran and FK Karabakh of Azerbaijan.
Bülent Korkmaz, the most decorated Turkish player thanks to captaining Galatasaray during the club’s best years, had a brief run in Azerbaijan as well. He was leading unheralded FC Baku to third place in the league, but just like his former coach, Terim, he resigned after a feud with his bosses.
Current Gençlerbirliği coach Fuat Çapa worked in several Belgian and Dutch clubs in the last decade, including second tier clubs MVV Maastricht and Roosendaal.
But probably when talking about brief stints, Uğur Çimen’s is a standout. He was only a masseur at mid-table Turkish club Konyaspor before being approached by North York Astros in 2009. The Canadian club offered Çimen a job, but showed him the door only after receiving four defeats in as many games with the Turkish man at the helm, leaving a possible fairytale cut short and ending in the worst possible way.