The best supported club in Turkey according to various domestic media polls, having won record numbers of Super Lig titles, Turkish Cups and Turkish Super Cups, Galatasaray are the most successful of the three Istanbul-based powerhouses, the others being their bitter rivals Besiktas and Fenerbahce.
The club takes its name from the school whose students founded it in 1905. With no other Turkish teams around at the time of their early beginnings, Galatasaray joined the Istanbul League, which included teams from England and Greece.
They went on to win 10 Istanbul League titles before the advent of Turkish professional football in 1959, and continued to enjoy more success right up until the golden era towards the end of the 20th century.
This period saw them win the domestic league four times in a row from 1997 to 2000. And in that final year they also became the first ever Turkish side to win a European competition when they lifted the UEFA Cup, setting an even more impressive record as the first side to do it unbeaten. Crucial to their achievement was the exceptional generation of home-grown talent that also led the national side to third place in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
The club have had a number of famous faces amongst their ranks. Hakan Sukur, the Turkish Super Lig’s all-time top goalscorer with 249 goals; Mehmet Leblebi, scorer of a record 14 goals in a single match; Fatih Terim, who went on to guide the side to that 2000 UEFA Cup win as manager after finishing his playing career there: all these have worn the Galatasaray colours.
The football team is part of a larger Galatasaray community that includes educational institutions such as a university and many other sports teams. In the 1986/87 season, the club achieved the remarkable feat of being national champions in 15 different sporting disciplines.
One of the most intimidating places to play in world football, Galatasaray’s Turk Telecom Arena held the Guinness world record for the loudest crowd noise inside a stadium until it was recently broken by CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The sense of facing a real challenge is increased by the playing of the “Galatasaray War Chant” in the ground before every game.
Opened in 2011, the 52,652 capacity UEFA five star arena saw glory in its first season as Galatasaray lifted the Turkish Super Lig trophy.
It regularly hosts Turkish national team fixtures, and was also the stadium in which Paul Pogba’s France Under 20 side recently won the World Cup.
A major target for Lazio in the summer transfer window, Burak Yilmaz is a talented Turkish international striker who finished the group stages in last year’s competition as its top scorer (in the least amount of time) with six goals in 501 minutes.
Pulling the strings in midfield is Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch international’s ability is not in doubt, but he has lost on both occasions that he has played in Turin: his Real Madrid side were downed 2-1 by goals from Alessandro Del Piero and Amauri in 2008, and whilst playing for Inter in the 2011 Serie A championship under Leonardo his team were defeated by an Alessandro Matri header.
Two familiar faces to those who follow the English Premier League are Albert Riera and Emmanuel Eboue, who had spells at Liverpool and Arsenal respectively.
But Galatasaray’s most famous name is surely Didier Drogba, scorer of the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League final with Chelsea and still a deadly marksman.
One of Galatasaray’s most notable signings over the summer transfer window was the tying down of a permanent deal for Juventus’ Felipe Melo. The Bianconeri midfielder had been on loan with the Turks since 2011, and made his move permanent in July this year.
Also arriving in the summer was 18-year-old winger Bruma from Sporting Lisbon. Already a Portuguese Under 20 international, he will surely be one to watch for the future.
Aurelien Chedjou is another new addition from Lille. The Cameroonian centre back won the Ligue 1 title in 2010/11 and is a full international for his country.
Galatasaray’s new manager has been confirmed as Roberto Mancini. The Italian’s first job since parting ways with Manchester City will be to inject some momentum into a what has been a slow start for the Turkish side under Fatih Terim.
Mancini enjoyed a Scudetto-winning career at Sampdoria, but the signs that he had ambitions of becoming a manager were already evident in the half-time team talks that he used to give in those days.
After spells at Fiorentina and Lazio during which he achieved promising success despite hugely limited resources, he was given the reins at Inter, where he would go on to make history as the only manager ever to win three consecutive Scudetto titles for the club.
His next challenge was Manchester City, and he did equally well there, guiding the Blues to their first Premier League title in 44 years.
Famous for always wearing a scarf in his club’s colours when on the touchline, he will be donning a yellow and red one from now on.