TURKEY: The Fenerbahçe-Cardozo Saga


Óscar Cardozo was supposed to be unveiled by Fenerbahçe on Friday 19 July. Aziz Yıldırım, known for trying to please Fenerbahçe fans with lavish spending, was even reported by Portuguese newspaper A Bola to have travelled to Lisbon late on Wednesday in order to personally broker the deal.

The thirty year-old Óscar Cardozo, a fan favourite at the Estádio da Luz, was only put on the transfer list after a confrontation with manager Jorge Jesus during the Portuguese Cup final. Despite scoring thirty-three goals across all competitions, Cardozo seems to have put himself in an unforgivable position by pushing his manager during the Taça de Portugal final. Visibly frustrated, Cardozo was taken off with twenty minutes left in the match. Cardozo pushed Jorge Jesus when he was taken substituted. Vitória de Guimarães scored twelve minutes later to seal a 2-1 victory.

Fenerbahçe know what damage Óscar Cardozo can do to opposition defences. He scored two decisive goals in the Estádio da Luz against the Canaries in the Europa League semi-finals. Cardozo boasts a goals-to-games ratio for Benfica well above the typical forward’s objective of 0.50 with 161 goals in 260 matches. Cardozo has been rumoured by the Turkish press to be on the verge of joining Fenerbahçe since late June. Non-Turkish media has often linked him to moves to the Premier League.

The Turkish media, well-known for peddling even the most dubious rumours, may have been happy to see a substantiation of their journalistic integrity on Thursday 18 July. Cardozo’s agent, Pedro Aldave posted, “Oyuncu hazır, son söz başkanların.” to Twitter. In English this means “The player is ready, the final word is the presidents’.” (Notice the plural possessive apostrophe on “presidents’.”) On Saturday and Sunday, Aldave wrote, “Tahminimizden daha zor geçiyor, bekliyoruz,” (It is passing more difficultly than our guess, we are waiting), “Hiçbir şey bitmedi… ama umutluyuz,” (Nothing finished… but we’re hopeful.)

Disregarding Galatasaray’s recent lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights, which asked the Turkish Football Federation to consider citizens of the European Union as domestic players, Fenerbahçe is currently one player over the foreigner limit and the transfer of Cardozo would bring that number to two. The transfer would burden manager Ersun Yanal to trim his squad down as well as find Turkish alternatives.

19 July was World Fenerbahçe Supporters Day and Yıldırım was thought to have wanted to secure the Paraguayan’s signature to liven the festivities. The Fenerbahçe web site remained silent on the matter but Aldave’s messages on Twitter will certainly give Fenerbahçe fans hope.

Benfica’s European Curse

For lack of a euphemism, Benfica caved in on itself in all competitions late last season. After remaining undefeated in the Primeira Liga for 29 of the 30 match days, Benfica conceded in stoppage time away to Porto. The former went on to finish in second place behind the latter. The Eagles also lost to Chelsea by way of another stoppage time goal. The losses to Porto and Chelsea happened within a 96-hour time period. The Portuguese Cup loss piled more disappointment onto the capital city team.

After losing to Chelsea, Benfica fulfilled the supposed curse of Hungarian Béla Guttmann. In 1962, Guttmann, who was then manager of Benfica, asked for a raise after winning the European Cup for two years in a row. When the board of directors refused his request, he quit the team and said, “Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion.”

Guttmann took over again for the 65/66 season but Benfica has never won a European competition since 1962; they reached the final of the precursor of the Champions League in 1963, 1965, 1968, 1988, and 1990 and the final of the UEFA Cup in 1983. Thirty years later in the Europa League final, Benfica did not see happier times in Amsterdam.

Yusuf Nasihi

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