Galatasaray's Emperor wants to conquer world
Fatih Terim plotting Real's downfall in next stage of global rise, writes James Riach
Fatih Terim is known as the Emperor in Galatasaray, and it is easy to see why. Five Super Lig titles, two domestic cups and one UEFA Cup have been won during three separate spells as manager, and now the 'Grande' of Turkish football turns his attention towards a bout with another of Europe's heavyweight managers.
Loved by Galatasaray but loathed by Fenerbahce, their great rivals from across the Bosphorus, Terim is preparing for a Champions League quarter-final with Real Madrid and, significantly, a meeting with his old friend Jose Mourinho.
"I've known Jose for many years," Terim says. "He's not your typical coach, he's different. We have always enjoyed a good friendship and the game between us will not change that."
This season is the first since 2001 that Galatasaray have qualified for the last eight in the Champions League. When Terim, who has previously managed Milan, Fiorentina and Turkey, rejoined the club in 2011 they were languishing in eighth place and Fenerbahce were overwhelming favourites to secure a successive title. However, eight back-to-back league wins over winter turned the season in Galatasaray's favour and they eventually secured the Super Lig by an impressive nine-point margin. It had been four years since their previous title and Terim is now determined to transform them into the dominant and formidable force of old.
"When I took over here Galatasaray were in eighth place, but everyone at the club, the technical staff, the administrative staff and our board worked together well to become champions," he says. "At the beginning of this season we won the Super Cup and we are doing well in the league and Champions League. Good things don't happen by accident – we are a family, believe in one thing and are all united. It is easy when you are a family.
"We are adapting all the time and are very happy to be in the quarter-finals, but our work is to be here all the time. Nobody can be champions every year, but to be in the Champions League consistently, that's what we want. Our aim is to be one of the biggest clubs in the world – permanently. It is steady progress. Consistency is the problem, but we have the capability, experience and courage to do it."
Teams travelling to Istanbul are rarely treated to a warm welcome. Madrid will hope to win the first leg at the Bernabeu on Wednesday and not be reliant on victory in the hostile Turk Telekom Arena. It has been Galatasaray's home since January 2011, when they relocated from the cauldron of Ali Sami Yen, and they have since added world-class talent to their squad to signify a new era. Didier Drogba signed a one-and-a-half-year contract in January after his short and unfortunate spell at Shanghai Shenhua, while Wesley Sneijder agreed a three-and-a-half-year deal in the same month.
"In China, Drogba didn't play for two months, then he joined up with the national team and then he came to us when we were already in the middle of two competitions," Terim says. "He is getting better and better physically each day. When he first arrived he wasn't at that level, but now he is improving.
"He has incredible character and he is willing to work. He wants to be part of the team, he is focused and gives 100 per cent during training and the games. There is no need to talk about his ability. He is a big brother to all of the young players – leadership suits him really well because it is coming naturally from inside him."
With dynamic players such as Hamit Altintop and Burak Yilmaz already making a significant impact, Terim believes Galatasaray have the ability to do what Manchester United could not. Drogba may be the star name for Galatasaray, but in Yilmaz they boast the top scorer in the Champions League this season and a striker who has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
"He listens, he is 27 but he is still open to learning new things. Burak senses goals; he can score any time and from anywhere. I'm really fond of him; he has been a miracle signing," Terim says. "Andriy Shevchenko was the same. If you substituted him in the 89th minute he would be angry; Burak is the same. He is always thinking about scoring one more goal. I think he is going to get better and better.
"It's not going to be easy to keep him. He has targets but it will be his decision; being wanted is a good thing, but we are fond of him and believe he will do great things for us in the future."
Terim was impressed with United's display against Madrid, especially at Old Trafford. There will be no special attention for Cristiano Ronaldo, instead Terim wants his side to ignore the occasion and play their own game. "United played very well, but sometimes that is not enough against Real Madrid," he says. "We don't need to describe Real Madrid, everyone knows they are a very good team, known across the world, and they eliminated Manchester United. But we are also a good team, with good players. We respect them, but we have confidence for the game.
"Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world at the moment. He can do everything, but we can't just approach Madrid as if they have only one good player. They are playing as a team and have [Mesut] Ozil, [Sergio] Ramos and Angel di Maria. We don't change our plans for Ronaldo. We want to play football."
For the Emperor, this could just be the beginning of yet another Galatasaray era to savour. "The supporters gave me that nickname of the Emperor," he says. "It's nice to accept it. But my name is Fatih Terim." Observer