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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ESPN:Fenerbahce plan glorious decade

Dominic Raynor,ESPN

'We will be like Chelsea, AC Milan or Real Madrid within 10 years. This is inevitable.'

Those are the words of Fenerbahçe's ambitious president Aziz Yilidrim, who got slightly over excited after presiding over the Turkish champions' first foray into the knockout stages of the Champions League after five attempts.

Possibly delirious after breaking the Turkish record for points accrued in the group phase of Europe's premier competition, beating arch-rivals Galatasaray's total of ten points by a single digit, Yilidrim was happy to tell anybody who would listen that Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü have arrived.

'The next 10 years will be for Fenerbahçe, everyone should accept that,' he said. 'We have not yet reached our full potential, but Fenerbahçe has taken the first step on the way to further growth.'

Yilidrim's bullish statement preceded the Yellow Canaries' 3-2 home win against FC Sevilla in the first leg of their last 16 clash and we can only imagine how he will ratchet up the rhetoric if they manage to maintain their advantage and squeeze into the quarter-finals.

And while Yilidrim's claims that the club can be elevated to the level of the former G14 cartel within a decade might be a bit fanciful there is no doubt that dramatic change has taken place at Fenerbahçe since he succeeded ex-chairman Ali Sen in 1998.

The former construction tycoon has increased the capacity of the Sükrü Saracoglu Stadium to 52,500, sold 16% of the club's shares and trademarked Fenerbahçe. But despite increasing his organisation's revenue he is a long way off matching his idolised trio in the top five of football's rich list.

Fenerbahçe are also a long way from being a credible alternative to Europe's established clubs for the world's best players but the Turkish club have certainly attracted some top talent to boost their profile around the globe; including Chelsea's newest recruit, £15million striker Nicolas Anelka.

The French international, who has cost more in cumulative transfer fees than any player in history at £84.8 million, joined the club for £7million in 2005 as part of Fenerbahçe's budget version of the galatico era that also saw Argentina international Ariel Ortega, Ukrainian striker Serhiy Rebrov and Dutch striker Pierre van Hooijdonk pass through the club.

In Zico the club now has a coach with enough gravitas to attract further household names and in the summer the former Brazil international was instrumental in attracting compatriot and World Cup winner Roberto Carlos to the club.

The former Real Madrid left-back joined Alex de Souza, another Brazilian, who has won 48 caps for his country, Dutch Eredivisie golden boot winner Mateja Kezman and highly-rated Ghana midfielder Stephen Appiah in the clubs increasing pool of recognizable talent.

If Fenerbahçe can squeeze past Sevilla into the quarter-finals of the Champions League the club may well embark on a glorious decade as Yilidrim predicts but the Yellow Canaries will never fly as high as Europe's established clubs because history is against them.

It is the same reason that Chelsea, despite their riches and success, will never be in the same bracket as Juventus, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and their peers; clubs simply can't buy a glorious European past, even in these days of billionaire oligarchs.

History puts two of Yildirim's triple targets in AC Milan and Real Madrid out of reach but if he can mastermind Fenerbahçe's continued rise for the next ten years the Turkish club can aspire to become one of Europe's new powers - not unlike his third target Chelsea.

If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.

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