Since 1957, Turkish football has been dominated by the same three sides: Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş.
Of the 62 seasons played post 1957,together, they have won 55. The two other sides to have secured a title in thatperiod are Trabzonspor (6) and Bursaspor (1).
This season, however, could be one of those rare occurrences where the dominance is punctuated. Istanbul Başakşehir, a club who have risen to prominence in recent years, currently occupy top spot. They are six points clear of second placed Yeni Malatyaspor: a side from a city in Eastern Turkey.
It’s a rarity that one of the big three are not at the top of the table, but it is even more uncommon that at least one of them is not within touching distance. Both Beşiktaş and Galatasaray are currently eight points behind the leaders. Fenerbahçe, meanwhile, are having a disastrous campaign, and are fighting for survival. They occupy second-from-last place with a measly haul of 15 points from 16 matches.
You have to go back to 2010 for the last time a team other than the big three won the title, with Bursaspor’s surprise triumph. Prior to that, the last team to win the title other than Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe or Beşiktaş was Trabzonspor in 1984. That is an astonishing period of dominance by three sides who perpetually wrestle for power.
Yet, this year, the balance has skewed.
The top sides do not seem to have that aura that they usually carry. They are not as ruthless or clinical as years gone by. There is a gap for a side to upset the triopoly and it appears that team is Istanbul Başakşehir.
As recently as 2014, Başakşehir were playing in the second tier and were just a tiny footnote in comparison to their Istanbul rivals. However, in a remarkable rise, they earned promotion that year and have finished no lower than fourth in the four seasons since (they finished runners-up to Beşiktaş in 2016-17).
Trawling through their squad list, it appears to be a team made up of players who were in their pomp in 2008. Their team list has the likes of Gaël Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Emre Belözoğlu among their ranks. But, seemingly,they are cogs in a very well-oiled side.
Though they rank 8th in the league for goals scored, Başakşehir have a watertight backline. Indeed, they have conceded just seven goals in 16 matches. Going by the adage ‘an attack wins you games, but a defence wins you titles’, they are odds-on to capture their first Süper Lig trophy in their short-lived history.
However, we are just about to clip the halfway stage and the January transfer window could be a game changer. Keeping hold of players,bolstering the squad and staying one step ahead of the rivals is an arduous challenge that can dictate the rest of the campaign, and one which Başakşehir will have to manage studiously if they are to overcome.
As for now though, there is the real prospect that there could be only a second winner of the league, outside of the big three sides, in 35 years.