Turkish top tier kicks off a star-studded season

Pre-season signings look likely to raise the league’s international profile with top clubs signing stars such as Dutch forward Robin van Persie, Portuguese winger Nani, German forwards Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez, and Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto’o.

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However, the excitement has been overshadowed by news this week that a car carrying Fenerbahce and Turkey midfielder Mehmet Topal and a youth player was shot at by unknown gunmen. They were unhurt in the incident.

Fenerbahce spent over 40 million euros ($44.66 million) on transfers this season, adding to their squad van Persie and Nani from Manchester United. But they have made a poor start, exiting the Champions League qualifying after losing to Shakhtar Donetsk last week.

Fenerbahce was not the only team to take advantage of a new code that allows teams to employ up to 14 foreign players. In the previous season, the teams could sign a maximum of eight foreign players, and only five of them could qualify for the match squad.

Defending champions Galatasaray signed Podolski from Arsenal, who will join Wesley Sneijder and Fernando Muslera in their battle for success in the Champions League group stage.

Besiktas, who finished third behind their Istanbul rivals last season, have also polished their squad, adding Mario Gomez on loan, despite facing financial burdens and a delay in the opening of its new stadium.

Last season, Turkish soccer fans witnessed a very tight title race, as Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas remained on each other’s heels until the penultimate week, with Galatasaray ultimately clinching their 20th title.

(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Daren Butler/Sudipto Ganguly)