Aziz Behich is back in Turkey with Istanbul Basaksehir, and the club at the nation’s heart well and truly mean business.
Melbourne-born Behich joined Istanbul in May, returning to the nation he was once eligible to represent through family lineage, and where he played for Bursaspor.
Basaksehir returned to the Super Lig in 2014/15 after a one-year absence and have been steadily mounting a challenge alongside fellow Istanbul-based heavyweights Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray ever since.
But could this be the breakthrough year for Behich and Basaksehir, who are hunting their first-ever title?
The Turkish Super Lig title has remained in Istanbul for the best part of a decade now, and it would take campaign of twists and turns for the script to be flipped in 2019/20.
Galatasaray – the former club of Caltex Socceroo legend Harry Kewell – are back to back champions and have won five of the last nine titles, while compatriots Besiktas and Fenerbahce have two titles each to their name in that time.
However, in Behich’s Basaksehir, there could very well prove to be a new champion that emerges this season. Basaksehir, managed by former Turkish international midfielder and six-time Super Lig winner Okan Buruk, have finished second, third and second in the past three campaigns, and were just two points shy of Galatasaray in 2018/19.
Bosnian winger Edin Visca earned Super Lig player of the season honours for Basaksehir last campaign, a phenomenal force in the club’s title tilt, who contributed over half of his side’s goals in the form of 12 goals and 14 assists.
Portuguese star Ricardo Quaresma is still demonstrating his unique talent for Besiktas, and so too his Brazilian forward Robinho for Basaksehir.
Meanwhile, Senegalese striker Mbaye Diagne put his name on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest with his return of 30 goals last season, a tally nearly double that of his nearest competitor – Caykur Rizespor’s Vedat Muriqi (17 goals).
2019 has been a life-changing year for Aziz Behich. After his career with PSV Eindhoven fizzled out, the 28-year-old secured a three-year deal with Istanbul in May.
Then, he captained Australia against Korea Republic in June, before getting married.
Now back in Turkey, where he spent six seasons on the books of Bursaspor, Behich is aiming to kick-start his club career again for a team with serious designs on winning the title.
Denizlispor, Genclerbirligi and Gazisehir Gaziantep have all entered Turkey’s top flight, replacing relegated clubs Akhisarspor, Erzurum BB and Bursaspor.
Behich and Basaksehir commence their hunt for a maiden league title on Monday morning against Yeni Malatyaspor, 4:45am AEST kick off.