Soviet Surge | Part 9 | Galatasaray #4: Turkish Delight

Season two in Turkey was proving to be somewhat of a breeze for Russian manager Vladimir Latunov, whose Galatasaray side had the Turkish Super League virtually wrapped up at the half-way mark with a 14 point lead.

A few players left in January, including the terrible central defender Jordan Torunarigha, for a £6 million profit. He was replaced by a former club academy product in Ozan Kabak, who returned for £10 million from Schalke. Latunov also snapped up another exciting young striker in 18-year-old Valencia starlet Juan Carlos Benavides, whose contract was up in the summer and Valencia only wanted £130,000. An absolute steal.

The new year began with a comfortable 3-0 win over Yeni Malatyaspor, which took the league leaders to seven consecutive league wins. Then four goals flowed at Altay as Victor Kovalenko scored on his return from six weeks out injured then Berkay Ozcan, Abduldakir Omur and Ozan scored on his return to the club.

Erencan Yardimci had made a great start to 2025 and kept that going with a goal inside 23 seconds at Denizlispor, Kovalenko doubled the lead with a sublime volley on 13 minutes, before Erencan went on to wrap up a hat-trick with two goals in the first 15 minutes after the break. The increasingly dodgy defence allowed the hosts back to 4-3 but a late Nahuel Ferreyra goal sealed a 5-3 win, which set a new league record for the highest scoring game.

The goals continued to flow freely as Daniel Nachev bagged a brace in a 4-0 win over Antalyaspor, Berkay followed suit in a 5-0 thumping of 2020 and 2022 champions Basaksehir, then an Orkun Kokcu screamer inspired a 2-0 win at Ankaragucu.

Ferreyra moved on to 20 goals for the season with a hat-trick in a 6-1 win at home to fifth-placed Alanyaspor, who went into the game on the back of a 23 match unbeaten run and only conceding once in seven games! That just shows the dominance of this Galatasaray side. The striker scored again in a 2-0 win at bottom of the league Adanaspor, which equalled the Super League record of 16 consecutive wins.

The chance to extend that came at home to Gaziantep and Erencan nodded home after 13 minutes to get the ball rolling. Three minutes later, he won a penalty that Kovalenko smashed home to make it 2-0 before adding his second early in the second half. However, after Latunov had made five subs at the same time Erencan got injured! But a 4-2 win sealed a record 17 consecutive league wins.

The ridiculous run continued with a 2-1 win at Hatayaspor, which teed up a top vs. second clash at home to local rivals Fenerbahce. Ferreyra came into the game in a rich vein form and showed it yet again with a brilliant hat-trick that inspired a 4-1 win that sealed the title!

Galatasaray defended their Turkish title and Vladimir Latunov lifted his third successive league title!!

That also set a new league record of 30 wins in a season, with six more remaining. So the next challenge was whether Galatasaray could go the entire season undefeated. A big hurdle to that was hosting Besiktas, which was overcome with a 1-0 win decided by centre-back Emin Bayram’s header. However, hopes ended with a fully rotated team coming undone in a3-1 loss at home to Kasimpasa.

The season ended with a battering of Rizespor with 32 shots to their five but just the 3-0 win, with the pick being a brilliant finish by Ferreyra on his return from injury. However, that was enough to take Galatasaray to a new record of 105 league goals. That meant they broke the Super League record for most wins (33), goals scored (105) and most points (103), as well as the longest-ever winning streak of 20 games.

Into the Europa League

The first knockout round of the Europa League pitted Galatasaray against Sporting Lisbon – which conjures memory of his English compatriot’s FM20 Saving Sporting series. The first leg was at home and Benavides picked a good time to score his first goal for the club to give Galatasaray a 21st minute lead that Berkay doubled with a ridiculous 35-yard free-kick. Berkay doubled his tally late on to seal a surprisingly dominant 3-0 win. The return leg in Lisbon marked Latunov’s 100th game in charge of Galatasaray and Marin Petkov scored the only goal of a quiet game.

That teed up a tie with Lille and Galatasaray came out flying in the home first leg, having seven shots inside 22 minutes and scoring twice through Efrain Alvarez and Benavides. A dodgy penalty five minutes after the break gave Lille an undeserved lifeline but young midfielder Bartug Elmaz restored the two-goal lead with a brilliant free-kick. However, Jonathan Ikoné scored another minute later, Jonathan David added another and Lille got an undeserved 3-3 draw. The Turks also dominated the second leg but couldn’t find a way through until Ferreyra came off the bench to nick an 88th minute winner to deal a deserved win.

The reward for that was a quarter-final clash with Schalke and, wouldn’t you know it, their Turkish striker Ahmed Kutucu was the man to make the difference with two goals. However, Galatasaray’s own striking starlet Ferreyra matched the feat in a 3-2 loss. But another solid second leg was the basis for another 1-0 win, this time decided by a late Berkay winner that sent Galatasaray through to a surprise European semi-final!

Things got much more difficult now with a tie against competition favourites AC Milan, with Lazio and Shakhtar facing off in the other semi. The home first leg didn’t start well as Ante Rebic scored inside 19 minutes but Petkov immediately equalised. That gave the hosts confidence and Alvarez put them ahead with a brilliant free-kick. But Milan got level with a total fluke in injury-time, only for Petkov to again go down the other end to nick a 3-2 win! Crazy game… The Italians were far more dominated in the second leg and eased to a 5-2 win that sent the Turks out as they pushed for a late winner, but what a great run to the semis.

Season Review

Ferreyra was the star of the season with 28 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions at a 7.52 average and won the Super League top goalscorer award with 22 in 31. Five other players made it into double figures for goals scored: Berkay (17), Erencan (15), Kovalenko (14), Abdulkadir and Petkov (both 13). Alvarez was a creative force with 17 assists followed by Berkay and left-back Layvin Kurzawa on 16, while Kovalenko got 13. Ferreyra has been amazing but how good he’ll actually be eventually will be interesting, as the Turkish league clearly isn’t the best…

On the job hunt!

Galatasaray had been promised a “golden generation” youth intake, which turned out to be several players of 3-star potential, which cemented Latunov’s thoughts that it was time to move on to pastures new. The key aim of the save is to win every league in Eastern Europe, so there was no point hanging around Turkey and winning it at a canter for another year. However, a big stumbling block towards this was the huge compensation Galatasaray would demand of other clubs, which meant Latunov had to quit the Turkish giants and go on the job hunt.

Major jobs available included Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb, which Latunov considered applying for but he felt he wanted more of a challenge after his Turkish domination. He put in several applications for vacant roles but nothing happened for a long time.

The first interview that did arrive was an interesting one with Hungarian side Honvéd, who have 14 titles to their name but only one in the the last 21 years, which came in 2017. They eventually came back with an offer that saw Latunov go from £18,000-a-week to just £2,500.

Join us next time as the Soviet Surge continues into country three in Hungary!


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