It was reported in one Turkish newspaper yesterday that Fenerbahce would look to sign Fernando Torres as a replacement for the off-form Robin van Persie in the summer. No time soon does the gravy train for fading footballers look like it will be derailed before alighting at Istanbul.
A thigh injury has ruled the 32-year-old Van Persie out of tomorrow’s Europa League Group A hosting of Celtic. It is a tie from which the Turks require a point to guarantee qualification in a section Ronny Deila’s side are condemned to prop up. Since the see-saw 2-2 draw the sides fought out at Celtic Park two and a half months ago, it seems as if Fenerbahce coach Vitor Pereira has been trying to make a point to the Dutchman. Van Persie hasn’t completed a 90 minutes in the 10 weeks since his inauspicious appearance in the east end of Glasgow.
Pereira may have issues with the stamina of the £3.85 million purchase from Manchester United he is said to consider one of those Harlem Globetrotter-type signings that Turkish clubs seem so keen on making. Yet, he appears to have made judicious use of Van Persie and the other summer arrivals that followed him at a cost of almost £30 million in transfer fees, an outlay part funded by the £11m sale of Moussa Sow to Al-Ahli.
When Fenerbahce came to Scotland in October, big-money buys such as former Manchester United winger Nani – who will also be an injury absentee tomorrow – Brazilian midfielder Souza and Danish centre-back Simon Kjaer were struggling to justify their combined fees, a figure in the region of £15m. However, in the ten weeks since, Pereira’s side have posted seven wins and four draws and are unbeaten since losing twice in the month before they faced Celtic.
Minus Van Persie, on Sunday they missed the chance to go above Besiktas at the top of the Turkish Super Lig when they could only scramble 2-2 draw away to mid-table Gaziantepspor. The surprise result brought a end to a four-game winning run that had prompted the club’s fanatical followers to re-assess early, unfavourable opinions of Portuguese coach Pereira. There is now the firm belief that he could be the man to lead the club to a first championship success since 2011.
Moreover, after the anger prompted by the meek capitulation to Shakhtar Donetsk in the third round qualifying stage of the Champions League and the 3-1 home loss to Molde with which they kicked off their Europa League campaign, there is now a belief that second string cross border competition could offer them some joy.
The flaky side that Celtic pulled apart for half an hour at Parkhead has been replaced by a far more robust unit, reflected in the fact that, in the three games since that draw, they haven’t conceded a single goal. Last month’s 2-0 win in Molde followed on from a 0-0 draw against Ajax away that was preceded by a 1-0 home win over the Dutch side that helped turnaround their fortunes in Group A. None of this augurs well for Celtic in the cauldron of the Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium.