While the upturn in quality at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium is evident, is there any sense in the wide attacker moving to Turkey at 23?
There was an element of surprise when Fenerbahce announced the deal to bring in Queens Park Rangers winger Bright Osayi-Samuel on a four-year deal till 2025.
The QPR attacker will play out the rest of the Championship campaign before joining up with teammates in the summer, a deal which looks strange from the outside looking in. Not for the historic Turkish side, though, but for the wide attacker whose choice of next club has been met with a few raised eyebrows.
Of course, the upside to the Yellow Canaries is evident. The most successful team in the transcontinental nation adds to the talent in the squad to match their ambition to return to the pinnacle of the land. They’ve been without a Super Lig title since claiming the league in 2013/14, which feels really long for a side with 19 league titles and 28 all-time championships.
Failure this year to return to the acme of domestic football in Turkey will see them equal their longest run without a league title (previous famine came between 1989 to 1996), a scenario that’ll only add to Fenerbahce’s pain given their rivals’ triumphs since 2014.
Galatasaray have secured the title three times in the last six years, while Besiktas have picked up two wins. Fener, on the other hand, have had to make do with finishing second three times since last winning it, twice runners-up to Gala, the side they absolutely love to hate.
Their ambition had led to the signing of Mesut Ozil from Arsenal, a gifted playmaking genius who was arguably the best in his position in his prime. Opting to switch to Istanbul from London is understandable: the ex-Germany international has a strong connection to the nation and club, referring to the move as a ‘dream come true’.
However, while Ozil’s move to the Yellow Canaries is comprehensible, Osayi-Samuel’s definitely isn’t…at least to the naked eye.
The ex-Arsenal man clocked 32 in October and is seemingly on his last legs after a productive career in the game which culminated with World Cup success in 2014. Still 23, defending the QPR attacker’s logic in making the switch feels like a fool’s errand.
Admittedly, the Anglo-Nigerian will experience the footballing culture in Turkey as well as live the feisty intercontinental derby with Galatasaray and equally full-blooded rivalry with Besiktas; yet every observer seems hard-pressed to understand the logic behind the move.
Especially being a 23-year-old yet to hit his prime, the Super Lig seems an odd destination for Osayi-Samuel despite the history of Fenerbahce and the intensity of their abhorrence of the aforementioned clubs.
When fans fully return, the atmosphere of games among Fener, Galatasaray and Besiktas and vibe of supporters, in general, will add to the charm of the division.
Still, it’s hard to see a path for the young winger thereafter and there’s a threat he may yet play out his prime years in one of the lesser European leagues and somewhat fall off the radar in the coming years.
This may also hinder him at national team level with either England or Nigeria, particularly with the latter as some have argued in the past that Gernot Rohr has a bias against Turkish-based stars—although invites for Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Shehu Abdullahi (Bursaspor), and Elderson Echiejile (Sivasspor) at various times in the late 2010s disproves this claim.
Understandably, though, the short-term benefits are glaring and that perhaps led to this move to Turkey. Having played Championship football all his life, some will reckon moving from the second-tier of English football to the possibly competing in the Champions League or Europa League represents an upgrade for the 23-year-old.
The side he joins in July — or possibly this month if QPR eventually have their way — currently sit second in the league, two points behind Besiktas and three ahead of Galatasaray in a three-horse race for the title.
A top-two finish may not guarantee instant participation in the continent’s premier club competition as the Yellow Canaries still have to navigate some qualifying rounds, but the possibility of playing CL football next season may have swayed Osayi-Samuel.
The sense in moving to Turkey will only become clear in future but, at present, the short-termism of a move to Fenerbahce may prove to obstruct long-term security. Only time will tell.