15 Greatest Turkish Footballers Ever

Who is the best Turkish football player of all time?

Turkey is known as one of the strongest dark horses in the world of football. The football team of the country has achieved various respectable feats, such as winning the third place in the 2002 World Cup and reaching semifinal round in Euro 2008. Not only that, some Turkish clubs such as Galatasaray, Besiktas, and Fernebahce also often create surprises in European football competitions.

In this article, I provide a ranking of 15 best Turkish footballers of all time. In the last two decades, this country has produced many talented players such as Hakan Sukur, Hamit Altintop, Arda Turan, Rustu Recber, and many more who played in various European big clubs. The question is, who is the best among them?

15. Halil Altintop

Halil Altintop is a striker who spent most of his career playing in German League. He is the twin brother of Hamit Altintop, and both once played in a same club, Schalke 04. Halil's best individual achievement was becoming third top scorer of the Bundesliga in the 2005-06 season. In addition to his regular position as a central forward, he can also be positioned as a winger or second striker. Halil Altintop started his debut in Turkey national football team in 2004.

14. Tugay Kerimoğlu

Tugay Kerimlogu holds the record as Galatasaray's youngest captain in the history of the club, at the age of 22 years. Playing as a central midfielder, Tugay spent twelve years at Galatasaray before moving to Glasgow Rangers. Two years of joining the Scottish cup, he moved to Blackburn Rovers, playing at the club for eight years, and retired in 2009. Throughout his career, he won six Super Lig (highest division in Turkish League) titles, one Scottish League titles, one League Cup, and was selected as the best Blackburn Rovers player of the 2003-04 season.

13. Alpay Özalan

Alpay Ozalan had a major role in helping Turkey win third place in the 2002 World Cup. Not only that, Ozalan who played as a central defender was also selected into the All-Star team of the tournament. After eight years of playing in Turkish League, Alpay moved to Aston Villa in 2000. He joined the club for five years, and after that pursued career in Japanese League with Incheon United and Urawa Reds before retiring at FC Koln in 2007.

12. Fatih Terim

Before being recognized as one of the world's best coaches, Fatih Terim was once a great footballer. Playing as a sweeper, Fatih Terim was often dubbed as the Franz Beckenbauer of Turkey. He possessed good tactical ability, intelligent, and very good at intercepting the opponent's passing. Fatih Terim played for Turkey in the period 1975-1985, capped 51 times and captained his country in 35 matches. After his retirement, Terim coached some elite European clubs such as Galatasaray, Fiorentina and AC Milan.

11. Okan Buruk

Okan Buruk is one of the best Galatasaray players of all time. He was known as a versatile midfielder with great long-range shot, accurate passing, and outstanding determination. With Galatasaray, he won seven Turkish League titles, one UEFA Cup trophy, and a UEFA Super Cup. Buruk was also voted as man of the match in the UEFA Super Cup final which was won by Galatasaray in 2000. He played for Inter Milan for three years before retiring in 2010 at Istanbul B.B.

10. Nuri Şahin

Nuri Sahin is a phenomenon. He made his professional debut at Borussia Dortmund at the age of 16 years, making a record as the youngest player ever to play in Bundesliga. Playing as a central midfielder, Sahin showed captivating performance at Dortmund although he was not regularly included in the first team squad. He moved to Real Madrid in 2014 and now is still undergoing a period as loanee, being loaned to different clubs to gain more first-team football experiences.

9. Tanju Colak

Tanju Colak is the only Turkish player in the history who won the European Golden Boot award. The award is annually given to the highest goalscorer of all leagues in Europe. Colak made this achievement in 1988 when he scored 39 goals in a season with Galatasaray. Throughout his career, Colak five times became the top scorer of Turkish League. He played for his country in 31 games and scored 9 goals.

8. Hamit Altintop

Hamit Altintop is a versatile midfielder who can play in various positions. His natural position is a central midfielder, but he can also be positioned as a winger, wingback, defensive midfielder or attacking midfielder. After undergoing a period of a glorious career at Schalke, Altintop moved to Bayern Munich in 2007. At the club, he won two Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokal trophies. Hamit moved from Munich to Real Madrid in 2011, but only lasted a season before moving to Galatasaray in 2012.

7. Tuncay Sanli

With a total of 22 goals, Tuncay Sanli is the second top scorer of Turkey national football team. During his career, he could be positioned as a winger or attacking midfielder. Sanli joined Fernebahce in the period 2002-2007, then moved to Middlesbrough in summer 2007. He showed pretty good performance at the club, becoming Middlesbrough's top scorer of the 2008-09 season. He ended his career as a professional footballer at Bursaspor in 2014.

6. Nihat Kahveci

Playing as a striker Nihat Kahveci joined three clubs during his professional career: Besiktas, Real Sociedad and Villarreal. He was known as a fast, agile and cunning striker. During his career, Kahveci twice helped his team to be the runner-up of La Liga. He was also part of Turkey squad in the 2002 World Cup, Confederations Cup 2003 and Euro 2008; where he always took his country to reach at least the semi-finals rounds. Throughout his career, Kahveci played for the Turkish national team in 69 international matches and netted 19 goals.

5. Lefter Küçükandonyadis

Küçükandonyadis is legendary striker of Fernebahce and the Turkey national team who played in the 1941-1964 period. During 15 years of his career at Fernebahce, Küçükandonyadis scored 423 goals in 615 matches. He also presented three Turkish League titles for the club. In total, Küçükandonyadis played in 50 games for Turkey national team and netted 22 goals. His best performance occurred in the 1954 World Cup, where he scored two goals in the tournament.

4. Hasan Sas

Together with Alpay Ozalan, Hasan Sas was included in the 2002 World Cup's All-Star team. He showed captivating performances during the tournament and helped his country win the third place. Playing as a winger, Hasan Sas possessed remarkable speed and dribbling skills. At club level, he won five Super Lig titles, one UEFA Cup trophy and a UEFA Super Cup.

3. Rustu Recber

The title of Turkey's best goalkeepers of all time should be awarded to Rustu Recber. Until now, Recber holds the record as the player with the highest number of caps for Turkey national football team, with a total of 120 appearances. At club level, Recber had successful career with Fernebahce, Barcelona, ​​and Besiktas. He was also selected as the UEFA best goalkeeper in 2002. Throughout his career, Recber claimed five Super Lig titles.

2. Arda Turan

Arda Turan is a creative midfielder who won a lot of trophies with Atletico Madrid. Playing as a left winger, Turan possesses astounding ball control, dribbling, and creativity. He was signed by Atletico Madrid from Galatasaray in 2011 and so far has presented dedicated a Copa del Rey trophy, one UEFA Cup trophy and a UEFA Super Cup trophy for the club. He was also three years in a row selected as the best player of the Super Lig and also awarded by IFFHS as most popular European footballer of 2009.

1. Hakan Sukur

Considering his performance at national team, club, and individual levels; it seems appropriate to name Hakan Sukur as the best Turkish football player of all time. He is top scorer all-time top scorer of Turkey national team with a total of 51 goals. Not only that, Sukur is also the all-time top scorer of the Turkish league with a record of 249 goals. Throughout his career, Sukur won eight Super Lig titles with Galatasaray and a Coppa Italia with Parma. He also helped his country to a third place finish in the 2002 World Cup.

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