In the last two decades, over 50 Nigerian players have tasted action in Turkish Süper Lig as well as the lower league.
Currently, Nigeria is ranked fourth in the list of countries that have enjoyed the privilege of exporting football talents to the European nation.
In this in-depth report, Legit.ng attempts an insight on why Nigerian players while in the search of the Golden Fleece, prefer plying their trade in Turkish topflight as against other major leagues in other European countries.
What could then be responsible for the ‘mad rush’ to the Southeast European nation despite its numerous security challenges in recent time?
This report therefore attempts to unearth some of the gains, pains, and challenges the frequent movement of Nigerian players to the Turkish leagues may face in the coming years.
Investigations into the main reasons for the mass movement of Nigerian players revealed that Turkey’s capital, Istanbul has now become one of the major hubs for careers seeking football players, who believe their dream about better wages as well as a career in Europe could see the light of the day if they kick start from Turkey.
Since January 2015, over three years ago, when The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) removed limits on the number of foreign players allowed in a team, in an effort to create competitiveness in the game as well as stop the soaring prices for home-grown talents, the number of Nigerians and other foreign players plying their trade in the European nation has continued to be on the rise.
Under the previous rule, only five foreign players were allowed to play at one time while three non-Turkish players were permitted to sit on the bench.
However, the current law now permits a club to register 14 domestic and 14 foreign players in its 28-man squads, thus allowing a club to field an entirely 11 foreign players during matches, but in match lineups, seven local football talents must be included.
Speaking on the current contributions of Nigerian players and their foreign counterparts in the Turkish Sup Lig, a renowned sports journalist in one of the country’s most respected dailies, Hürriyet’s chief sports editor, Mehmet Arslan, believes the arrival of foreign players on Turkish soil has turned the Super League into the most competitive in Europe.
“Foreign players have started to change the football culture in Turkey,” he says, even as he was quick to note, “The champion of the English Premier League is already more or less known, as in Spain’s La Liga and Germany’s Bundesliga. But in Turkey, in addition to the “big three” of Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, there is also Başakşehir and Trabzonspor that believe they are in with a shout,” admitted the ace sports journalists, who has been working in daily Hürriyet for the past 28 years.
Low income tax rate
Low income tax rate is one of the major reasons while most Nigerian players and their foreign nationals opt for the Turkish topflight.
In Turkey, the income tax rate is much lower than what is obtainable in other European nations like Germany, England, Italy, Spain, and France. To a great extent this largely account for Turkey being one of the most preferred destination among foreign football players.
The aim of lowering the tax rate by the Turkish authorities was to boost the quality of Turkish Super Lig by attracting more quality stars across the borders.
To further break it down, in countries like Germany, Spain, Italy and England, where level of competition is higher than the Turkish Super Lig, players pay more income tax than their counterparts in Turkey.
KPMG Football Benchmark's video revealed that the expenditure of a Turkish club for a player, who earns net 1 million euros ($1.18 million) per annum, is 1.19 million euros ($1.41 million).
In Germany the figure tallies to 1.9 million euros ($2.25 million).
Also, in Spain the cost is close to the one obtained in Germany, as the figure is 1.91 million euros ($2.26 million).
But in Italy the figure obtained in Spain moved up to 1.97 million euros ($2.33 million) and rises further to 2.12 million euros ($2.51 million) in England.
On the other hand, French Ligue 1 holds the costliest record, a player in the French topflight, who bags net 1 million euros per year, will cost approximately 2.74 million euros ($3.24 million) to his club.
Luxuries and add-ons
The luxuries and comforts provided by some Turkish clubs largely entice move Nigerian players to showcase their skills in the Super Lig than move to midland Europe.
During contracts negations’ Turkish clubs provide additional luxuries and add-ons by offering concessions like paying for players’ houses and proving state-of-the-art car.
This no doubt leaves most Nigerian players with the option of penning the deal to move to Southeast Europe.
Nigerian players are also reminded of some of the advantages they stand to gain will playing in Turkey.
“Most importantly, the clubs hammer on the tax advantage Turkey offers foreign footballers, that will see you earn a net income once you come on board,” a Turkish-based ex-Super Eagles forward, who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Legit.ng.
…End of the Road?
Despite the positives achievements, reviews’ and remarks enjoyed by the Turkish Super Lig in recent time, thanks to the arrival of Nigerian players and their foreign mates.
Our findings revealed that in no distant time, authorities of the Turkish topflight may change the laws of the league as they are currently facing the hottest debate among Turkish sports stakeholders about foreign footballers dominating local teams and its impact on the future of Turkish players, after Turkey failed to reach the 2018 World Cup that will be held in Russia come June.
However, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former professional football player, in a televised interview on Turkish TV channel NTV Spor, cautioned last November that the issue of foreign players limit can only be reviewed in 2019 when most foreign footballers' contracts are up.
"Many foreign players are under contract until the end of 2019 season. We cannot speculate about that," Erdogan said. "The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) needs to settle this issue with clubs after 2019."
The president further advised that a complete ban on foreign players is irrational, but admitted that more efforts should be put in place for local players to increase their skills.
Already, the TFF has commenced plans to limit the number of on-field foreign players to eight.
"With more foreign players, the quality of our league has improved. It has brought down the price of local players and filled the stadiums. But, we will discuss how we can increase the number of local players on the pitch in an administrative meeting. Maybe the number of foreign players on the bench could be reduced," TFF Chairman, Yildirim Demiroren was quoted as saying by TFF official website.
So, as eggheads of the TFF attempt to sort out the issues surrounding foreign player quota, Nigerian players’ must also be cautions in understanding the final decisions concerning these litigations before sealing or considering a deal or move to Turkey until after 2019, at least for now.
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr in a recent interview with The Sun, lamented over the recent bench role of Williams Troost-Ekong at his club Bursaspor ahead of the World Cup in Russia.
Rohr said: "William Troost-Ekong is not playing at his club because of the new coach. The coach prefers Turkish players to foreigners. But we’ll continue to encourage the player and condition him for the task ahead."
Nigerian players who have played in Turkish topflight (Past and Present)
1. Shehu Abdullahi – Bursaspor – 2017-
2. David Solomon Abwo – Gençlerbirliği 2006
3. Victor Agali – Kayseri Erciyesspor 2005–06, MKE Ankaragücü 2006–07
4. Akeem Agbetu – Kocaelispor 2009, Sivasspor 2009–10
5. Julius Aghahowa – Kayserispor 2008–09
6. Alloysius Agu – Kayserispor 1994–97
7. Mikel Agu - Bursaspor - 2017-
8. Joseph Akpala – Karabükspor 2013–15
9. Daniel Amokachi – Beşiktaş 1996–99
10. Gbenga Arokoyo – Gaziantepspor 2014–16
11. Iyayi Atiemwen – Çaykur Rizespor 2016–18
12. Tijani Babangida – Gençlerbirliği 2000–01
13. John Chibuike – Gaziantepspor 2014–16, Samsunspor 2017-
14. Macauley Chrisantus – Sivasspor 2014–15
15. Emem Eduok – Kasımpaşa 2016–
16. Ekigho Ehiosun – Samsunspor 2011–12, Gençlerbirliği 2012–13
17. Elderson Echiéjilé - Sivasspor 2017-
18. Bright Edomwonyi - Çaykur Rizespor 2017-
19. Emmanuel Emenike – Karabükspor 2010–11, Fenerbahçe 2013–15, 2016–
20. Michael Eneramo – Sivasspor 2011–13, 2015–2016, Beşiktaş 2013, Karabükspor 2014, İstanbul Başakşehir 2014
21. Patrick Friday Eze - Konyaspor 2017-
22. Imoh Ezekiel - Konyaspor 2017-
23. Edema Godmin Fuludu – Altay 1994–97
24. Nosa Igiebor - Çaykur Rizespor 2017
25. Dominic Iorfa – Galatasaray 1992–93
26. Uche Kalu – Çaykur Rizespor 2013
27. Raheem Lawal – Mersin İdmanyurdu 2013, Eskişehirspor 2014–16, Osmanlıspor 2016–
28. Godfrey Oboabona – Çaykur Rizespor 2013–
29. Sunday Mba – Yeni Malatyaspor 2015 - 2017
30. Uche Okechukwu (Deniz Uygar) – Fenerbahçe 1993–02, İstanbulspor 2002–06
31. Jay-Jay Okocha (Muhammet Yavuz) – Fenerbahçe 1996–98
32. Oliver Ogbonnaya – Gençlerbirliği 2011–12
33. Christopher Ohen – Beşiktaş 1998–99
34. Azubuike Okechukwu - Yeni Malatyaspor - 2017-
35. Kenneth Omeruo – Kasımpaşa 2015–2016, Alanyaspor 2016
36. Ogenyi Onazi – Trabzonspor 2016–
37. Paschal Onyedika Okoli - Bursaspor 2017-
38. Wilson Oruma – Samsunspor 1998–99
39. Nduka Ozokwo – Mersin İdmanyurdu 2011–13
40. Isaac Promise – Gençlerbirliği 2005–08, Trabzonspor 2008
41. 09, Manisaspor 2009–12, Antalyaspor 2012–14, Balıkesirspor 2015
42. Gideon Adinoy Sani – Akhisar Belediyespor 2012–13
43. Victor Shaka – Trabzonspor 1997
44. Ike Shorunmu – Beşiktaş 1999–01, Samsunspor 2002–05
45. Seth Sincere – Yeni Malatyaspor 2017-
46. Taye Taiwo – Bursaspor 2013–14
47. William Troost-Ekong - Bursaspor – 2017
48. Kalu Uche – Kasımpaşa 2012–13
49. Aminu Umar – Osmanlıspor 2015–
50. John Utaka – Sivasspor 2013–15
51. Yakubu – Kayserispor 2015–2016
52. Joseph Yobo – Fenerbahçe 2010–13
53. Ayila Yussuf – Orduspor 2013
54. Simon Zenke – Samsunspor 2011–12, İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor 2013
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