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İstanbul Başakşehir’s Journey To The Top Of The Turkish Süper Lig


The word “solidity” means “the quality or state of being firm or strong in structure” in the English dictionary. Considering the last couple of years in Turkish football, it has only one meaning: İstanbul Başakşehir.

By: Recep Ozerin

Founded in 1990 and promoted to the highest tier in Turkish football in 2007/08, the originally-named İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor were a rather mid-rank team characterised by a solid, defensive style. Back then, even if they never competed for the championship or for Europe, their most notable trait was the persistency to search for solidity.

The Right Man In Charge

After having managed the Istanbul side between 2006-2011, Abdullah Avcı resigned from the role to become the manager of the Turkish National Team. In 2014 he would return. His second spell was more impressive and at the start of 2016/17, they started their ascent to the top. Avcı’s men finished second, only four points behind the champions Beşiktaş. Next season, they finished three points short. In 2018/19, their incremental inch to the summit continued, with only two points separating them and the champions, Galatasaray. Each season they improved their performance but failed to make it happen in the last stretch.

The beginning of the 2019/20 season saw Avcı leave for Beşiktaş and suddenly, Başakşehir needed a new manager. The minute Okan Buruk took the job, he realised that the continual progress made by Avcı didn’t come by default. Buruk lost each of his first four competitive games. An early affliction for his side was the inability to score the first goal of the game.

Well, the later part of the 2019/20 season saw them do just that. Başakşehir trailed for only 209 minutes in the Süper Lig, the lowest total of all sides (Trabzonspor 228 and Galatasaray 397).

The First Goal Is Key

Not only were Başakşehir the team who trailed for the fewest minutes in the league they also scored the opening goal in the highest number of games (26; equal with Trabzonspor). What separated the two sides, was Başakşehir’s ability to see the game out from taking the lead.

Super Lig 2019/20 - Record When Scoring First

TeamFirst GoalWinWin %
İstanbul Başakşehir261869%

Başakşehir became the first team ever in Turkish Süper Lig history to win the title after having lost their first two games of the season. They reacted brilliantly to those opening setbacks, embarking on a 26-game run where they only lost once.

To emphasise their recent dominance, since 2016/17, Başakşehir have won the most matches (82), lost the fewest (18), accrued the most points (281) and spent the longest number of weeks at the top (50). They are also the only team to have finished in the top three in each of the last four seasons.

Super Lig Record Since 2016/17

TeamWDLPointsWeeks At The Top
İstanbul Başakşehir82351828150

A big reason for this consistency is that seven players from their starting XI have been at the club at for least three years. These players formed a solid core with a great amount of experience.

In addition to that, they have three players who each scored 10+ goals this season (Edin Visca – 12, Demba Ba – 12 & Enzo Crivelli – 11); only Fenerbahçe have had more players to previously achieve this (4 players in 2007/08). While Crivelli reached the highest number of goals this season in his career, Visca is the only player to have double digit goal and assist contributions in consecutive seasons in the Süper Lig.

Başakşehir's Experienced Squad 2019/20

PlayerAgeSeasons For Başakşehir'
Mahmut Tekdemir3114
Edin Visca299
Alexandru Epureanu336
Junior Caiçara303.5
İrfan Can Kahveci243.5
Gael Clichy343
Mert Günok303
Demba Ba341.5
Martin Skrtel351
Enzo Crivelli241
Danijel Aleksic281

History In The Making

The architect behind this miraculous success, Okan Buruk, became the fifth person to clinch the Turkish Süper Lig title both as a player and a manager (he joins Ertuğrul Sağlam, Aykut Kocaman, Hamza Hamzaoğlu & Şenol Güneş as those to achieve this success). He turned Abdullah Avcı’s solid but “clumsy” team into a result-oriented giant with a pragmatic structure.

Players And Managers To Win Super Lig

Okan BurukGalatasaray (1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 & 2008)Başakşehir (2019/20)
Ertuğrul SağlamBeşiktaş (1995)Bursaspor (2009/10)
Aykut KocamanFenerbahçe (1989 & 1996)Fenerbahçe (2010/11)
Hamza HamzaoğluGalatasaray (1993 & 1994)Galatasaray (2014/15)
Şenol GüneşTrabzonspor (1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981 & 1984)Beşiktaş (2015/16 & 2016/17)

34 year-old midfielder Mehmet Topal, who signed as a free agent at the beginning of the season, also made history. After having won the title with Galatasaray (2007/08) and Fenerbahçe (2013/14), he became the first player to win the Turkish Süper Lig title with three different clubs. He has been mostly a back-up player behind Mahmut Tekdemir but still helped his team with his experience in the most crucial games down the stretch.

From being a municipality team to becoming a football club, preferring a defensive-minded strategy to putting pressure on opponents with attacking flair, performing in an empty stadium to creating its own unique crowds, Başakşehir’s journey to the top is a dream come true.

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