Turkey has always been one of the classic retiring spots for former Premier League footballers, along with the more traditional options like the United States or nowadays China. But this season’s Turkish top flight has really witnessed some top-class stars take the field, with some former flops also loving life in the popular European holiday destination.
Besiktas were eventual winners in a not-so exciting contest, and it was former Liverpool man Ryan Babel who, incredibly, was one of their main men this season. The Dutch international flew down the wing week in, week out as he helped his team to another league title, and it blew my mind to find out that he is somehow still only 30-years-old.
It is however the top-goal scorer list that literally blew my mind, like, for real. Who other than Vagner Love banged in an incredible 23 goals in 28 games, yet even more incredibly his Alanyaspor side finished a mere 12th in the league. Cenk Tosun of Besiktas came second with 20, just two ahead of the main man himself – Samuel Eto’o. Yes, Samuel Eto’o! The 36-year-old scored almost half of Antalyaspor’s goals, amazing.
Also on the list is Fenerbache’s Moussa Sow (on loan from Al-Ahli, of course), who joined Cameroon hero Vincent Aboubakar on 12. Once-wonder kid Welliton also found the net 12 times. And one behind them? None other than West Ham legend Ricardo Vaz Te, who has finally found that form he always knew he had, finding the net every other week for Turkish giants Akhisar Belediye.
It’s hard to believe but it just gets better and better down the list, with former Millwall man Magaye Gueye impressively notching double figures for his beloved Adanaspor. Who joins him on ten goals for the season? Hugo Rodallega. Unreal. And one behind him, the boy Robin van Persie. Yep, Hugo Rodallega outscored RVP.
Arsenal legend Lukas Podolski hit seven as his devotion to playing for Galatasaray continues, yet perhaps the best name on the list – another former Gooner, Emmanuel Adebayor – sits one behind him. The İstanbul Başakşehir forward scored a monumental six goals to help his side finish just four points behind Champions Besiktas. What is life? Yet another former Premier League star made the phenomenal list with five goals, as former Hull City man Dame N’Doye led Trabzonspor to a fifth place finish.
Other madmen earning their trade in the country include Jeremain Lens, Ricardo Quaresma, Demba Ba, Nigel de Jong, and of course Wesley Sneijder, who will never, ever leave Galatasaray. Ever.
Just in case this madness and crazy list of living legends wasn’t enough, Champions Besiktas celebrated winning back-to-back league titles by sailing up the river Bosphorus, and were joined by hundreds of boats containing fans going completely mental. Class.