Turkey: The home of the veteran striker

One of the lesser followed leagues in Europe from a neutral perspective, the Turkish top flight is full of drama and renowned for it’s extremely passionate fans for which the club they support is more of a lifestyle than a hobby. The rivalries between clubs in Turkey often reach boiling point, with the league even playing host to the game commonly referred to as ‘The Intercontinental Derby’ between Galatasary and Fenerbache, with Galatasary being in Europe and Fenerbache in Asia. This derby is fuelled by the clubs involved being the two most successful clubs in Turkey historically, however, there are many other fixtures in Turkey which see no love lost between the two sets of players and supporters.

However, it is perhaps not the derbies, or even the recent rise of clubs such as Trabzonspor and Istanbul Basaksehir that is the most remarkable thing about the Super Lig, but the incredibly consistent array of veteran strikers plying their trade in the division. Think of a striker who carved out a successful career in Europe who you thought was retired and the chances are they reside in Turkey’s top division, and scoring goals while they do it.

This article details the strikers who are enjoying perhaps one last hoorah before retirement while opting to play in a highly competitive league rather than seek riches elsewhere, and also the differing levels of success they have had in doing so.

Radamel Falcao

Age: 34

Current club: Galatasary

The biggest name currently residing in the Super Lig, Falcao’s summer transfer from AS Monaco to Galatasary saw him gain instant adoration from his new fans. Despite struggling with the injury problems that have hampered the last few years of his career, the goal record of ‘El Tigre’ in his new surroundings is commendable with nine in 14 games.

During his peak at Atlético Madrid many felt Falcao could progress to be remembered as one of the greats, but a move to AS Monaco potentially showed a lack of ambition. That paired with a serious knee problem and two failed loan spells in the Premier League has led to some forgetting just how potent he was for Atlético, but the Galatasary faithful instantly warmed to the striker who has 34 goals for Colombia in 89 appearances. Should he manage to stay fit he has what it takes to really make his mark in the Turkish top flight.

Demba Ba

Age: 34

Current club: Istanbul Basaksehir

Demba Ba burst onto the scene when he moved to West Ham in 2011, but his seven goals in 12 games wasn’t enough to prevent the Hammers from getting relegated. He subsequently moved to Newcastle and this is where he really began to gain attention scoring 29 goals in his two year stay before Chelsea came knocking. He had been less prolific once Papiss Cissé joined Newcastle and at times BA had to inexplicably settle for a spot on the wing. Ba’s short stay at Chelsea saw him net seven league goals in 33 games but he was never seen as the main man at Stamford Bridge, with Torres and Eto’o both above him in the pecking order. He will always be remembered though, as the benefactor of Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip where he went through to slot past Mignolet.

Ba moved to the Turkish league in the summer of 2014 and has spread his time during the past six years between Turkish clubs Besiktas, Göztepe, and now Istanbul Basaksehir as well as two spells at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. In that time he has an impressive goal ratio of 38 goals in 69 league games in Turkey and with Başakşehir currently joint top of the league, he will be hoping football will soon resume so he can help push for the Turkish league title.

Papiss Cissé

Age: 34

Current club: Alanyaspor

As mentioned previously, Papiss Cissé joined Newcastle in 2012 and became the focal point of their attack, with Ba moving to the left. He had an impressive goal record at Freiburg in the Bundesliga before arriving with 37 league goals in 65 games. As fate would have it, he also scored 37 league goals for Newcastle, albeit in 117 games. His form when he arrived in the Premier League was scintillating but this had settled down a lot by the end of his four year stint.

Cissé and Ba’s careers seem remarkably entwined and, like Ba, Cissé went to China where he spent two seasons at Shandong Luneng. On 31st August 2018 Cissé signed for Alanyaspor which is where he has remained since, scoring an impressive 31 league goals in 44 games in the process.

Robinho

Age: 36

Current club: Istanbul Basaksehir

A hugely talented footballer with the typical Brazilian flair, Robinho’s transfer from Real Madrid to Manchester City in 2008 sent shockwaves around the footballing world. Robinho was the first real marquee signing of the new ownership at City, with the signing announced on the day the Abu Dhabi United Group completed their takeover and he brought real excitement to the blue side of Manchester. Some incredible performances followed in his first season but his second season was impacted by injury and he fell down the pecking order, making only 10 league appearances. His stay in Manchester was short lived as he moved to AC Milan in 2010 where he spent the next five years. Again he failed to really live up to his potential scoring 25 league goals in 108 games, albeit he has never really played as an out and out striker.

A player seemingly more appreciated in his homeland, where he has 100 Brazil caps and 28 international goals, Robinho moved back home on loan to Santos in the 2014-15 season. A permanent move to China followed before moving back to Brazil again after just a year to play for Atlético Mineiro. He eventually found himself in the Turkish Super Lig, signing for Sivasspor for the 2018/19 season and is now at Istanbul Basaksehir where he is helping their push for the title.

He has scored 16 goals in 53 league appearances in Turkey but may be left ruing what might have been with Pele touting a 15 year old Robinho as the heir to his throne. However, his two La Liga titles, one Serie A title, and 2007 Copa America win are honours that not many players can claim.

Arouna Koné

Age: 36

Current club: Sivasspor

Wigan fans will remember Koné’s dyed white hair and number 2 shirt fondly from his highly successful single season for the Latics in the 2012/13 Premier League season. Unfortunately his 11 league goals weren’t enough to prevent Wigan from being relegated but they did beat Manchester City against all odds to win the FA Cup. When Roberto Martinez swapped Wigan for Everton in the summer of 2013 he took Koné with him, however his six league goals in four years in Merseyside are evidence of his struggles. This prompted a move to Sivasspor in 2017 where he has managed a respectable if not prolific 26 league goals in 72 games.

Cameron Jerome

Age: 33

Current club: Goztepe A.S.

Cameron Jerome has forged a relatively successful career in English football where his main strengths have always been his work ethic and physicality, rather than his goal scoring returns. Spells at Birmingham, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Norwich in the Premier League as well as time spent in the Championship are evidence of a solid career. However his 33 Premier League goals in eight seasons spent in England’s top flight are proof of goals not being the strikers main contribution to his team.

This pattern has continued for Jerome in Turkey where he has only managed to contribute seven goals in 42 league games at Goztepe. However, often leading the line on his own, Jerome’s game is predominantly about bringing others into play and linking attacks.

Max Kruse

Age: 32

Current club: Fenerbache

Max Kruse is in his first season in Turkish football with the entirety of his career up to this point spent in his homeland of Germany. He has a number of German clubs on his CV with Werder Bremen, SC Freiburg and VfL Wolfsburg to name a few. Prior to his move to Fenerbache in 2019, Kruse was in his second spell at Werder Bremen where he managed 32 goals in 84 league appearance prior to his contract expiring. A talented player with an eye for both a goal and assist, Kruse also has 14 Germany caps to his name as well as four international goals and many in Germany felt he was unlucky to be left out of the German’s provisional 30-man squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Kruse has settled in well in his new surroundings predominantly playing in the number 10 role for his new club and has seven goals and six assists from this position in 20 league games. However, Fenerbache sit in a lowly 7th place in the table and are 13 points off the pace for the title that they have won on 19 occasions.

Hugo Rodallega

Age: 34

Current club: Denizlispor

Hugo Rodallega became known to fans of the Premier League when Wigan signed him for £4.5m from Mexican side Necaxa in 2009. He went onto score 24 league goals for the club in 112 games and is still Wigan’s all-time highest Premier League goal scorer. He scored a further 15 league goals in England across three years at Fulham before moving on to Turkey in 2015 where he has played for Akhisarspor, Trabzonspor and now Denizlispor.

The Colombian, who has eight goals for his country, has enjoyed life in Turkey and has reached double figures for league goals in three of his five seasons in the Super Lig. His debut season for Akhisarspor was the most prolific of his senior club career with 19 league goals in 34 games. He came close to this with 15 goals in 33 league games last season for Trabzonspor and has six in 23 for new club Denizlispor this season who sit 10th in the league. In total he has scored 52 goals in his 139 appearances in the Turkish top flight.

Lukas Podolski

Age: 34

Current club: Antalyaspor

A World Cup winner with a sledgehammer of a left foot, Podolski never really lived up to his promise at club level. It was FC Köln that saw the best of him over his two spells with moves to Bayern Munich and Arsenal never really paying off. Much of this has been put down to the affinity Podolski feels towards his first club, Köln, with the German having a tattoo dedicated to the club. Despite these less successful big moves, he is widely regarded as one of the best players of a generation for Germany and with his World Cup winners medal, 130 caps and 39 goals at international level it is difficult to argue with that.

Podolski has had two spells in Turkey, one when he left Arsenal permanently in 2015 for Galatasary, and as of 2020 playing for Antalyaspor. He had spent two and a half years in Japan prior to his move back to Turkey this January, playing alongside David Villa and Andres Iniesta at Vissel Kobe. In his first spell in Turkey Podolski scored 20 league goals in 56 games, as well as the winner in the 2016 Turkish Cup final against Fenerbache. He has only played six league games since his return but has managed two goals in that time and it will be interesting to see how long he remains in Turkey as many thought he would retire after his spell in Japan.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Age: 36

Current club: Olimpia (Paraguay)

A player who divides opinion, Emmanuel Adebayor’s ability has never been in doubt. His attitude, however, has. With his infamous celebration against former side Arsenal when scoring for Manchester City and his habit of regularly changing club, 10 times in total, Togo’s highest ever goal scorer is still scoring goals at the age of 36. Although he has recently left the Turkish league, in a bizarre transfer to become the highest paid player ever in the Paraguayan first division, his three years as a veteran striker in Turkey deserve a mention.

Adebayor signed for Istanbul Basaksehir in 2017 following a short spell at Crystal Palace and in his first season his new side finished runners up in both the league and cup. In his time at Basaksehir he also scored two hat-tricks against Galatasary. He then moved to Kayserispor in the summer of 2019 where he made only eight league appearances scoring two goals. This left his record in Turkey as 26 league goals in 68 games. So far in his time in Paraguay he has played two games but is yet to get off the mark.

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