Galatasaray went into the summer having somehow managed to add silverware to their cabinet after a disastrous season that saw them change manager twice.
Jan Olde Riekerink was initially hired as a quick fix after Mustafa Denizli – who replaced Hamza Hamzaoglu – resigned.
The former Ajax youth coach managed to guide the Lions to Turkish Cup glory and then went onto win the Super Cup against Super Lig champions Besiktas last week.
Riekerink has managed to establish himself as a fan favourite, lifting two trophies over a 13 match span in charge.
The board decided to keep him in charge after an impressive display. In fact the Lions have exceeded even their most die-hard fans expectations.
Most Galatasaray fans had already lost hope going into the summer break. Few expected the Lions to make any noteworthy transfers or be anywhere near in a position to challenge of the league title.
Galatasaray have been banned from European competition for breaching FFP and this season was supposed to be a transitionary period after finishing the league campaign in a disastrous 8th place.
Riekerink has however, managed to get his team to gel in a remarkably short space of time. Portuguese youngster Bruma returned from loan at Real Sociedad and has finally started living up to his billing – in pre-season anyway. He has actually been so impressive that Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho personally praised him after the friendly game in Sweden and ordered his scouts to keep tabs on the youngster.
Wesley Sneijder is in high spirits again and a few decent additions have been made.
The Lions have brought in Turkish international Serdar Aziz, Switzerland international Eren Derdiyok followed Tolga Cigerci from HSV, Belgium international Edisson Cavanda, Icelandic international Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Nigel De Jong from LA Galaxy.
The Lions may found their replacement for Felipe Melo – who left on transfer deadline day for Inter last season – in Cigerci. The hard-working physical midfielder looks like he could turn a few heads this season if he manages to remain injury free. The Germany born midfielder has made an excellent start to the league campaign and had 97 passes at 92% accuracy, 7 long balls at 100% accuracy, 115 touches on the ball on his debut against Karabukspor. Cigerci also covered 12,500m in a league where covering 10,000m is considered a hard days work. Galatasaray have a much improved central midfield compared to last season and the addition of Nigel De Jong will contribute to arguably the toughest duo in the league.
Derdiyok is an experienced Swiss international and gives Galatasaray options upfront with the in-form Sinan Gumus and Lukas Podolski. Derdiyok already has two goals in his opening two games and the recent addition of Sigthorsson has bolstered Riekerink’s attacking options further.
The Istanbul giants also recently strengthened their coaching staff bringing in former Manchester United goalkeeping expert Frans Hoek to replace Claudio Taffarel.
With Besiktas losing Mario Gomez upfront as well as attacking midfielder Jose Sosa and Gokhan Tore. And Fenerbahce having just replacement Vitor Pereira with Dick Advocaat it puts Galatasaray in a far stronger position going into the league campaign than they could have imagined in their wildest of dreams.
Galatasaray go into the league season as serious title contenders with the most physical side they have had in years. Riekerink has no European football to worry about and can focus solely on the Super Lig and Turkish Cup. The Dutch manager has made up for not having the funds coaches of the past have had but he has made up for the financial shortcomings by exploiting the leagues lack of physical sides. Super Lig sides have struggled in Europe due to lacking the fitness and power of their continental rivals. Riekerink has implemented a system which has yet to be effectively carried out by one of the top three sides in the league. The Lions will rely on brawn to muscle past their opposition this season and considering they have won their first two league games the early signs are promising.
Should Riekerink go onto win another trophy this season he’ll be on a fast-track to becoming one of the most successful foreign managers in recent years. It is however, worth noting that a Dutch manager has never won the league yet.
Prediction: Top 2