Zico: Or How to Spell Glory in Turkish
If the particular stint of Zico at Fenerbahce, as a coach, is something somewhat forgotten throughout Europe, it still remains as arguably of one the best managerial works in a Turkish club, and surely there isn’t any Turk who’s into football who doesn’t remember it.
Used to Make a Name for Himself
Zico is an uncontainable name in world football: named as the “white Pelé”, he has 545 goals to his name, and 39 titles in his sheet, he is not only of technically the best to ever step on the pitch, he is a legend of game for all the reasons that are not football also. His enticing personality, his will, and his leadership echoed through the teams he played for and, well, his tremendously differentiated feet did the rest. There is no way to speak about football without mentioning Zico at the very least once.
But there’s even more to Zico than his personality, his feet, or his career: he was also a politician and an edited musician. He also played beach football and his currently immaterial patrimony of Rio de Janeiro. Yep. That’s how much he means to Brazil.
Zico at Fenerbahce
Zico at Fenerbahce achieved, essentially, two things: titles and glory. In his stint at Fenerbahce, Zico managed to stage all the three most important titles in Turkish football: the League, the Super League and the Cup, all in one year. Now, it’s important to mention something about Zico’s squad, in order to fully understand how was he capable of not only winning these titles, but going the furthest that any Turkish team went in Europe, ever.
Zico could count, in his squad, with the likes of Edu Dracena, Alex, Deivid, Fabio Luciano and Roberto Carlos, all Brazilian talent, and most of them internationals. To add to that, Maldonado and Lugano were also star-features on this dream-team, that was relying mainly on South American talent to take Europe by storm.
Taking Europe for a Ride
In the 2007/2008 Champions League, Fenerbahce, as any other Turkish team, was not seen even as a team capable of passing the group-stage. Afterall, all this south-American talent was deemed finished and doing a pre-retirement cash-grab at Turkey, and the history was not kind to the emblem neither. Zico himself had never coached an European team before, and was considered a mediocre coach riding on a spectacular career as a football player.
All this speculation was put to bed, though, when Fenerbahce reach the final 16, though. At that time, teams were taking Fenerbahce’s squad and coach into consideration, at least more so than in the beginning of the tournament.
Rightfully so: Fenerbahce ended up taking Sevilla out of the way, after an emotional 5-5 in aggregate that took them to penalties, where Sevilla lost 3-2. Fenerbahce had made club and international headlines, being the first team to reach the quarter-finals in the Turkish clubs’ history.
Leaving, Standing Up
Next up there was Chelsea to face. This time, no one was taking the underdog so lightly as they did before. This takes another proportion when we know we are mentioning Mourinho’s Chelsea at his peak; a coach that wants to win at any cost, that is rational and strategic, that reads the teams quite well, and that had a squad to match any in Europe.
Nonetheless, Fenerbahce weren’t meant to go down without putting up a fight. And putting up a fight they did, winning at home 2-1, to the shock of the entire Europe. They hadn’t that much luck at Stamford Bridge though, where Chelsea won 2-0, taking Fenerbahce off the Champion’s League.
One thing who can’t be said about Zico’s Fenerbahce is that it left any sweat in its pours before surrendering. It was the brightest Fenerbahce’s period, and Zico played a fundamental role.