Besiktas last won the Super Lig title in the 2016-17 season, but their fortunes revived under coach Sergen Yalcin.
Leicester City’s heroic triumph in the Premier League under Claudio Ranieri has been hailed by one and all, as one of the most beautiful footballing tales of all time. However, Besiktas’ awe-inspiring victory in the Super Lig, considered Turkish football’s equivalent of the PL enjoys beauty of its own. The eventual winners battled it out in the longest ever season in the history of Turkish football, following a sudden decision by the nation’s football federation. The Turkish football federation decided to scrap the policy of relegating clubs for the edition that had already experienced a delayed start due to COVID-19 last year. It also proceeded with a season that comprised of three more clubs than usual. This meant a game every 3 to 4 days for the entire campaign, with a very small break in between.
Besiktas enjoyed a strong playing 11 going into the season but barely had any backup options, having not factored in a scenario where the composition would be pushed to the hilt. They were further hit hard by the most unlikely of injuries. Rivals like Galatasaray and Fenerbahce who enjoyed deeper pockets were not majorly affected, holding them in good stead despite the long season.
However, what prevailed for Besiktas was true grit and determination with the team literally not enjoying the presence of any offensive subs over the final few game weeks of the league campaign. Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Gokhan Tore decided to set an example by playing with injections, despite being in no position to even walk at one stage.
Everton attacker Cenk Tosun was signed on a loan basis in January, in order to provide some quality backup for Vincent Aboubakar. Aboubakar sustained an injury during an international break soon after, playing close to 28 minutes overall since that point. Tosun further featured in just three games before sustaining a knee injury which ruled him out for the season. Winger Ajdin Hasic was sidelined with a knee issue early, ruling him out for the rest of the league campaign. Serbian attacking midfielder Adem Ljajic and Oguzhan Ozyakup marked further long-term absentees. The scenario deteriorated to such an extent that Besiktas did not have any offensive players on the bench for a do-or-die clash against Galatasaray, with only defensive midfielders available.
However, the Turkish side maintained the desire to battle it out till the very end, emerging victorious on the basis of goal difference. Rachid Ghezzal was the top performer, accounting for 8 goals and 17 assists in 35 games.
When Besiktas coach Sergen Yalcin took over from Abdullah Avci in January 2020, he was hailed as a returning hero. However, there were also many who criticised the decision, following his behaviour in the past. Yalcin is one of the club’s most iconic but at the same time, polarising figures. He made his debut for the team in the 1991-92 season, emerging as a youngster through the academy. It was the third in a streak of back-to-back titles for Besiktas, under the managerial tenure of Gordon Milne. Yalcin soon emerged as a star performer for the team, making his presence felt for the Black Eagles in an excellent manner. It all seemed to be working out beautifully with the player slowly and steadily taking strides towards emerging as a club legend.
However, he left a year later to join Istanbulspor following a fallout with the board of directors. Yalcin went on to represent Trabzonspor, Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray again. The footballer further made a return to Besiktas in 2002 scoring the title-deciding goal in extra time against Galatasaray. However, all these heroics failed to win over the hardcore fans, who still remembered him for his perceived “treachery”.
When Yalcin took over the managerial role in January 2019, he received a mixed response. While the former club footballer got a warm welcome, there were some who looked upon with suspicion.
Besiktas had accumulated just 30 points from their previous 19 matches when Yalcin took over the team for the matchday 20 fixture away at Caykur Rizespor. They were battling a three-game losing streak that included being knocked out of the Turkish Cup. The team was placed seventh in the league, 11 points off the first position. What followed was a beautiful comeback as the Black Eagles earned another 32 points from the remaining 15 league fixtures of the season. They finished third, seven points behind Champions Istanbul Basaksehir F.K. However, they faced a sizeable backlash at this point with a financial crisis forcing them to bid adieu to top earners like Burak Yilmaz.
Nobody expected the club to challenge for the title at the start of the 2020-21 campaign. However, Yalcin displayed his managerial pedigree through some shrewd late signings in the form of Aboubakar, Rosier, Josef and Ghezzal. The players made their presence felt with an excellent season, marking their first away win against Fenerbahce since 2005.
The same disbelief with regard to a league triumph marked a distinct feel this season. Nobody expected a league triumph, let alone a double. However, 15th of May saw the Black Eagles crowned Champions on goal difference, with Besiktas going on to lift the Turkish cup a couple of days later to complete the double. The smile on Yalcin’s face indicated satisfaction on having finally redeemed himself.