Club: Galatasaray S.K.
Growth type: Standard/Lasting
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- Nicknamed "The Bull of the Bosphorus" by the European media, it is no coincidence that the rise of Turkish football in the early 1990's coincided with the emergence of the country's greatest footballer. Hakan Şükür began his football career with local club Sakaryaspor and made his league debut shortly after his 18th birthday in 1988. Two seasons later he moved to Bursaspor and won his first national cap in a friendly against Luxembourg in March 1992, scoring his first international goal in his next match against Denmark.
Inevitably his heading ability, which makes full use of his 1.91 m stature, and all-round excellence soon drew the attention of bigger clubs, and a move to Galatasaray followed in summer 1992. His time in Istanbul proved fruitful, with Galatasaray claiming six league titles and four Turkish Cups. In 1999–00, the last season of Şükür's first spell with the club (during this time, he had a short spell with Torino), Galatasaray completed a domestic double for the second year in succession and added the UEFA Cup to the trophy cabinet, the first Turkish side to win a European title.
A number of top European clubs toyed with the idea of signing Hakan, and he opted to play in Italy in 2002, trying his luck first with Internazionale and then Parma. In Parma, he met his old teammate, Brazilian Cláudio Taffarel. Neither move was successful, however, and after scoring twice in nine games for English side Blackburn Rovers in 2002–03 (with both goals coming in a game against Fulham), he returned to Galatasaray, scoring 12 times in 28 league games in his first season back.
"I have never felt like I should necessarily go to Europe and play for a bigger team," Hakan Sükür said of his time abroad. "Galatasaray were big enough." Despite his lack of success outside his homeland, his fine record for club and country, allied to an unselfish nature and a penchant for scoring crucial and memorable goals has assured him of a special place in the hearts of Turkish football fans. Outside of Turkey, he has scored 38 goals in all European competitions, and 51 international goals.
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