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In Turkey’s Soccer League, the Super Lig’s Giants Face a Reckoning

It is not only an expensive approach, but a deeply flawed one, prioritizing statement signings of older players at vast expense. Eler sees it as a “vicious circle,” in which clubs build teams of loan players and aging stars for this year, and are then saddled with their wages when they are no longer of use.

“Presidents think they have to give gifts to the fans,” said Hamit Altintop, the former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid player who now works for the Turkish soccer federation.

Perhaps more damaging, though, is that the approach discourages long-term planning. “When there is a failure as a soccer team, as a first step, the clubs give up their coach,” Terim said. “That is the easiest way to show them as the cause of failure.”

Emre Utkucan’s journey, he admits, has been unusual. Eight years ago, he was working as a television commentator; his role was, largely, covering games from the rest of the world, particularly Italy and Spain.

One night — as it was explained to Utkucan — Terim was watching a game, and listening to his commentary. Terim admired the way Utkucan saw the game, the way he analyzed players, his depth of knowledge. So he invited him to the club’s training facility.

Not long after, Terim asked Utkucan — a lifelong club member — to join his staff, assigning him to overhaul the way Galatasaray operated in the transfer market. “It was a big move,” Utkucan said. “Inviting a TV commentator, someone in a wheelchair, to be in charge of recruitment and analysis.” Terim got away with it because he is Terim.

Since he joined, Utkucan has worked with seven managers and four presidents. He has stayed, though, building up his team of international scouts, expanding his personal network, hiring his own team of analysts — his “nerds,” as he calls them.

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