Direct from Europe
Spring in Turkey: A Close Look at Edu's Transfer
ASN's Europe Correspondent analyzes Maurice Edu's move to the Turkish Premier League, and argues that a spring in sunny, scenic Bursaspor beats sitting on the bench in Old Blighty.
BY Asher Kohn PostedScotland, England, and now Turkey—Maurice Edu's passport is filling up fast. Last year the California native left Glasgow Rangers when the storied club filed for bankruptcy. He landed in the northwest of England for a promising Stoke City club, but failed to make an impression with manager Tony Pulis. Last week the Potters loaned Edu to Bursaspor for the remainder of the season, which begs a few questions. We've asked and answered them below. What's a Bursaspor?
January 21, 2013
January 21, 2013
Bursaspor is currently tied for fifth in the 18-team Turkcell Superlig, nine points behind leaders Galatasaray. Bursaspor won the league for the first time in 2010, edging out titans Fenerbahce by one point. The club's manager is the up-and-coming Ertugrul Saglam, famous not just for having two silent “g”s in his name and for his career as a striker for the Turkish national team and Besiktas, but also for leading Bursaspor to its first league title in his first season with the club. It was the first time since 1984 that a team not from Istanbul won the league. (If you want to read more about the Superlig and all things Turkish football, this article might be a good place to start.) Based in Bursa, a gorgeous city in the foothills of Mount Uludag, Bursaspor is not a bad place for a twentysomething American to spend a spring. The town is full of gorgeous Ottoman architecture, legendary baths, not a few corporations, and two million people. Iskender kebap is from here, and Iskender kebap is delicious. (If you're reading this, Mo, I would be more than happy to give you recommendations.) Bursa has one of the more fun fan cultures in Turkey. Nicknamed “the crocodiles” for their green-and-white kits, the club's new stadium—built in a lovely park—will be in the shape of a crocodile. For reasons that are still a bit unclear, the ultras call themselves “Texas” and have taken on Old West imagery. When the two combine, the results can be fantastic. Well that's all very nice, but what does this mean for Edu?
Bursaspor traditionally plays a very conservative style of soccer, and this year is no different. The team is led by their rock-solid centerbacks, longtime captain Omer Erdogan (no relation to the Turkish Prime Minister) and Ibrahim Ozturk. Bursaspor's big offseason forward acquisition, Tuncay Sanli (another former Potter) has aged frightfully and has appeared in just two matches, but the Chilean Sebastian Pinto has fared better. Argentine Fernando Belluschi has done a solid job as a trequartista and his countryman Pablo Batalla is a mainstay for the Crocs, but Musa Cagiran is club's only midfielder with a decent bite to his game. In other words, a smart defensive midfielder like Edu could really help Bursaspor compete for a Europa League spot. Edu will be the 10th non-Turk on the squad. He comes into a position of need in a system that needs his services. The team is looking for better things out of the second half of their season. Sure beats sitting in street clothes in Staffordshire. What sort of competition should Edu expect to face?
The moderately reliable UEFA league ranker puts Turkey as the 11th-strongest league in Europe, sandwiched between Greece and Belgium. The competition is solid. The nice thing about going to a club outside of Istanbul means that Edu will get to prove himself against the three toughest teams in Turkey: Galatasaray, Besiktas, and Fenerbahce. (Galatasaray, incidentally, is in the knockout stage of the Champions League.) Basically, the top several teams in the Superlig are on par with your lower-tier French, Spanish, or Italian sides. The chaff of the league—teams like Akhisar Belediye GS, Elazigspor, Genclerbirligi—play on bad pitches in tiny stadiums in the middle of nowhere. It'll be just like CONCACAF qualifying. Is there anyone playing in Turkey I might know? Any other Americans?
Historically speaking, yes. Jozy Altidore was loaned to Bursaspor for the second half of the 2010-11 season and parlayed a goal and 12 appearances into a sale to AZ Alkmaar. Brad Friedel played a season for Galatasaray in 1995-96. Freddy Adu hung out at second-division Caykur Rizespor for a season, which must have been strange for all involved. Turkey has been a decent proving ground for young talent trying to move to bigger stages in Europe, and that has gone for Americans as well. Spanish, Dutch, and especially German leagues scout Turkey for talent to poach, so Edu could get spotted. Most of the big stars are on the big clubs in Istanbul. Fenerbahce loves its aging beauties and have Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles. Miroslav Stoch and Serdar Kesimal are two to watch, though. Galatasaray's Semih Kaya is another rising defender, and the team also boasts the sturdy Tomas Ujfalusi, Johan Elmander, Albert Riera, and newly signed Wesley Sneijder.Hamit Altintop was one of the top midfielders in the Bundesliga for a while and still has plenty of class. There's a few more floating out there, but generally speaking if you're tuning in to watch Edu play, you may need to keep Wikipedia open while you do so. Is this a good move for Edu?
It’s good. Tony Pulis may be an amazing manager, but there was only so much Edu could learn without playing time. Bursaspor is hardly the sticks and the team plays some (emphasis on "some") solid competition, so he should be able to gain something as a defensive midfielder and learn a few tricks from the best center back tandem east of Italy. Edu, 26, may be able to get some shine back on him before the summer Hexagonal matches, which could lead to a move westward. Spring in Green Bursa beats the same in Old Blighty—especially when there's playing time involved—and hopefully Edu's form will blossom with the flowers. OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
• All the young Americans are going to Norway! Molde has signed U19 goaltender Ethan Horvath (A 17-year-old from Highlands Ranch, Colorado). He will be on the reserve side for Molde. What do you think of Edu's move to Bursaspor? Disappointed? Think it will get him back on track? Share your thoughts below. Asher Kohn is ASN's European correspondent.