Galatasaray, a team rebuilding on blaugrana roots

Galatasaray, a team rebuilding on blaugrana roots

An in-depth look at FC Barcelona's next opponent in the Europa League

After eliminating Napoli in the playoff, Barça are now preparing for their next Europa League opponent, Galatasaray. Here’s the lowdown on the Turkish club.

Where are they from?

Istanbul is the eighth most visited city in the world, with its many monuments including the Hagia Sophia mosque and was the seat of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. But despite its metropolitan population of over 15 million making it by far the biggest city in modern-day Turkey, the capital of the country is Ankara.

Istanbul lies lies on the Bosporus, which separates Europe from Asia. Galatasaray are based on the European side. The city is also home to Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. The big three have dominated the Turkish Süper Lig over the years, while another club from the city, İstanbul Başakşehir, has also joined the mix in recent years.


Founded by students in 1905, Galatasaray Spor Kulübü take their name from the Galata citadel. They have won the Turkish league a record 22 times and are the only Turkish team to have won a continental trophy, the UEFA Cup in 2000, beating Arsenal on penalties in Copenhagen and aided by many members of the same generation of Turkish players that would finish third at the 2002 World Cup.

Although English speakers often refer to the club as ‘Gala’, this form is not used by Turkish speakers, who might instead use the nickname ‘Cimbom’ (nobody knows for sure what that means) or the ‘Aslanlar’ (Lions).

Nef Stadium Web

The stadium

The Ali Sami Yen Stadium named after the club’s founder, gained legendary status around Europe as ‘hell’ because of the extraordinarily intimidating atmosphere, despite only holding 23,000 people.

But that ground no longer exists. Since 2022, Galatasaray have played at the Nef Stadium, a new 52,280 capacity all-seater ground that’s 7km away from the former venue. It’s no easier a place for teams to visit though. In 2022 it set a Guinness record of 131 decibels, the loudest roar ever generated in a football stadium.  

Form guide

After missing out on last season’s league title on goal difference to Beşiktaş, the 2021/22 campaign has been a huge disappointment for Galatasaray. Despite a decent start, things have slumped horribly and they are now right down in 12th place, 32 points adrift of the leaders and just eight points clear of what would be a first ever relegation for the club.

The crisis also included a shock exit from the Turkish Cup at the hands of second division Denizlispor Kulübü.

All this has contrasted with their excellent run in the Europa League…

Galatasaray's road to the last 16

Third Qualifying Round
Galatasaray beat St Johnstone (Scotland) 5-3 on aggregate

Play Off Round
Galatasaray beat Randers (Norway) 3-2 on aggregate

Group Stage
Galatasaray finished top of Group E ahead of Lazio (Italy), Marseille (France) and Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)

Previous meetings

Barça have met Galatasaray four times before, every time in the Champions League groups, and all those meetings were in the decade from 1993 to 2003. In eight games, Barça won five, drew two and lost just once.

Curiously, it was also in this ten-year period that Barça also met Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş in the same competition, the club’s only other meetings with Turkish clubs over the years. And yet despite these almost annual trips to the country in that period, this will be Barça’s first visit to Turkey for almost 20 years.

1993/94 Champions League Group A
Galatasaray 0-0 Barça
Barça 3-0 Galatasaray

1994/95 Champions League Group A
Barça 2-1 Galatasaray
Galatasaray 2-1 Barça

2001/02 Champions League Group B
Barça 2-2 Galatasaray
Galatasaray 0-1 Barça

2002/03 Champions League Group H
Galatasaray 0-2 Barça
Barça 3-1 Galatasaray


The players

Players with 10+ international caps
Fernando Muslera (Uruguay, 131), Arda Turan (Turkey, 100), Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria, 75), Ryan Babel (Holland, 69), Omar Elabdellaoui (Norway, 49), Erick Pulgar (Chile, 39), Semih Kaya (Turkey, 23), Alexandru Cicâldău (Romania, 20), Patrick van Aanholt (Holland, 19), Mostafa Mohamed (Egypt, 14), Bafétimbi Gomis (France, 12), Ömer Bayram (Turkey, 10)

Barça connections
No introductions are required for Iñaki Peña, who has been a goalkeeper at FC Barcelona since 2012 and was serving as an understudy to Ter Stegen and Neto until he joined Galatasaray on loan as part of the Turkish club’s major interventions in the winter transfer market. His ability to play the ball with his feet was a clear motive for the deal.

Iñaki Peña Galatasaray Web

Players like Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué and even manager Xavi Hernández know all about Arda Turan, who joined Barça from Atlético Madrid in 2015 and was at Camp Nou for two years, although he never quite managed to establish a regular place in the starting line-up.

Ones to watch
Gala's busy winter also included the inclusion of Chilean attacking midfielder Erick Pulgar, and French striker Bafétimbi Gomis whose previous clubs include St Etienne and Swansea City.

Usually playing 4-2-3-1, Galatasaray base much of their game around the their forward line of Sofiane Feghouli, Ryan Babel, Cicaldou and Akturkoglu, the latter the team’s top scorer at just 23 years of age. The main centre forward is Mostafa Mohamed, who has six goals this season.

The two centre backs Nelsson and Marcao are the traditional kinds of players in that role, while the usual full backs are Van Aanholt and Boey. Building from the back has been one of the main difficulties the team has been having this season, and is one of the primary tasks of the new manager…

Domènec Torrent Web

The boss

Coach and club legend Fatih Terim, a veteran of over 500 games in charge of Galatasaray was shown the door in January following the club’s disastrous league form. And he has been replaced by a familiar face to Barça fans, Domènec Torrent, a Catalan from Santa Coloma de Farners who worked with Pep Guardiola for many years at Barça, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. His first solo adventure began in 2018 at New York City, and he was later at Flamengo in Brazil.

Torrent’s biggest challenge has been totally changing the team from a very conservative system under Terim to his own ideas that are very much in keeping with the Barça style that he knows so well. Rather like it was with Xavi at Barça, changes didn’t happen overnight and his first three games in charge were all defeats, two of them at home, but since then the team was unbeaten until a defeat at Konyaspor this Saturday past.

Força Barça
Força Barça

Related to this article

Close article

Related to this article