Hello and welcome back to life at Sakaryaspor. As we secured European football for a second season, I wanted us to try and bridge the gap between ourselves and the ‘top’ teams in the league.
Colombian playmaker Moises Argueta joins us on a free, his attributes speak for themselves. He is a clear upgrade in the DLP role. Michael Eidissen set us back £850k, a small outlay for a player with such potential. He comes in to play as our Shadow Striker. Thanasis Chatzieleftheriou (yes you did read that correctly) is a young Australian striker we picked up on a free. He is our replacement for Tezcan who wouldn’t extend his loan with us, however we did sign Mete on loan for yet another season… it’s like he never left.
Tugay Kanli is a left footed CB who joins us from Altinordu for £1.5million, while Bunyamin Balci is a very versatile player who joins us from Antalyaspor for £2.6million, while he can cover in a number of positions, he will mostly play as a RB in our system. Kayky is a player you may recognise, released from Man City he will be able to give some competition to Neil Griffin for our Inside Forward role on the right.
Next up we have our most expensive signing, we spent a whopping £7million on Ilker Atlay, I think he can go on to be a key player for us for many years. He can play CB or LB which is very useful and he is obviously Turkish which is brilliant. The fact that we can now attract some really talented home-grown players is a sign of how far we have progressed. Previously they wouldn’t even enter negotiations with us, never mind actually sign for us. Mahsun is a Turkish LB I found in the Sheffield Wednesday youth system, I think he could become a good LB for us, while I am not totally convinced of his potential, I thought the £2million outlay was worth it. Finally, Dogacan signs from Goztepe for£6million, another big signing for us. Our consistency in being in the European places is paying off in terms of the players we can now attract.
Obviously with payers coming in, there had to some leaving us. The most difficult choice was to let Anthony Rouault leave on loan. He was a key player for us last season. However we have a limit of 10 foreign players and I couldn’t guarantee him a place in the squad. Especially as we had such good Turkish defenders joining us. So I let him go out on loan, with a recall clause in there, just incase.
Nihat Gunes was attracting the bigger teams in the league so we negotiated a good deal for us £2.7million with 40% of his next transfer fee. Jacob Ramsey failed to impress last season and with the latest signings he fell down the pecking order. The same went for Jonathan Panzo who had a poor season last year and so I decided to cash in.
I wanted to essentially create two starting 11s and then there would also be 3 or 4 ‘spare’ players.
Here are our two teams, Celal (our new club captain) and Metehan are youth academy graduates who have made the jump to the first team over the last few seasons. I feel like we have two players equally as good in each position. We also still have Kaan and Irfan who have been with us from the very beginning in the third tier. They aren’t good enough to play consistently for us anymore, I keep them around as they are Team Leaders, I don’t want to disrupt the cohesion too much and Irfan is still useful for his set piece deliveries. This may be Kaan’s last season with us sadly.
Europa Conference League:
We were given quite a nice group, I felt that Villarreal would be our toughest opposition but we could make it through in 2nd place.
We got off to an okay start, losing to Galatasaray is no surprise but we did match them for most of the game. They just had that little bit more quality in the final third. The loss to Fenerbahce hurt as it was completely undeserved. We dominated the game, finishing with an xG of 3.18… we were well and truly FM’ed. They scored a 20 yard screamer in the dying seconds to sneak a 1-0 win.
January Transfer Window:
Gonzalo Alvarez was complaining that he wanted to leave, Argentino Juniors made a bid of £5.5million which I accepted. If a player wants to leave I rarely stand in their way. While it was a shame to lose such a good player, I knew we had an equally good player in Rouault who we could just recall from loan. Another player recalled from loan is youngster Birol, we signed him last season and sent him on loan to get some experience. I was impressed with his development and wanted to give him a chance in the first team. Our only signing is goalkeeper Berke from Fenerbahce, he will be our new backup keeper. Lars Leinonen, who we signed for free last January, joined Liverpool for £7.75million.
The New Year…
Going into the new year, we lost Thanasis and Griffin for about six weeks as they were called up by Australia to play in the Asia Cup. So it would be up to Kayky and Mete to step up. Our first game of 2027 was against Galatasaray, needless to say I thought our good form was about to come to an abrupt end. How wrong I was…
I’ll just leave this here. What a result for us!
Our good form just continued. We thrashed Rapid Wien in the Europa Conference League First Knockout Round.
Neil Griffin (who has been attracting the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal) was named as the 9th best wonderkid in football. I think it will be a challenge to keep him with us!
We faltered a little in March with losses to Trabzonspor in the league and Fenerbahce in the first leg of the Cup Semi Final. Then in April Celtic beat us 1-4 in the Quarter Final first leg of the Conference League, only for us to win the second leg 5-0. We then beat Fenerbahce on away goals to make it through to the Turkish Cup Final!
Going into the month of May we were in the final of the Cup, in with a very good shout of winning the league and needed to overturn a 1-3 defeat in the Conference League semi final.
We won the league!
As you can see… we couldn’t quite make it to the Conference League Final but we gave it a good shot.
However, we did the double! Winning the league and the cup! What a season!
Thanasis was our standout performer this season, scoring 33 goals in all competitions, Mete had his best season with us scoring 24. I also want to mention youngster Birol who we recalled from loan in January and scored 8 goals in 16 appearances, and club legend Irfan who is mostly an impact sub these days, managing 8 assists from 22 sub appearances.
Irfan also went on to break the club appearance record, he has now amassed 182 appearances since joining us back in 2021/2022. While Malcolm Barcola equalled the club clean sheet record, with 15 this season.
I also just want to mention our Under 19s who have had their best season since being promoted to the Elite Group. The future is looking bright in Sakarya.
At the start of the season I wanted us to close the gap to Galatasaray but I never thought we would win the league! To win the Cup also was just amazing. We have made some real progress. Now we have Champions League football to look forward to next season.
I couldn’t have wished for a better season, if we can keep hold of our best players then I think we have a good chance of defending our title. In 6 seasons we have gone from the third tier of Turkish football to being Super Lig champions. I love this team and I am loving this save. Right, I am off to plan for next season.
Thanks for reading!