Serbian head coach Zeljko Obradovic’s departure from Fenerbahce Beko, after 11 trophies including a EuroLeague title, saddened many Turkish basketball lovers beyond the Istanbul club and their fans.
With five consecutive EuroLeague Final Four berths and four Turkish league titles between 2013 and 2020, Obradovic left his mark to the Turkish basketball with the precise team management.
Beyond these achievements on the ground with many trophies, Obradovic’s Fenerbahce indeed left a remarkable legacy to help the basketball grow in Turkey by creating one of the most intimidating teams in Europe during the 2010s.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, a prominent Turkish sports journalist, Kaan Kural shared his thoughts on Obradovic’s exit of Turkey and the legacy of Serbian coach.
“His departure from Fenerbahce is dramatic for the fans. He has a special place in the hearts of people and his departure will make them sad. Each basketball game was like a feast for the fans. While the club’s football team was not successful, the basketball team was special for the supporters. They bought 7,500 season tickets in recent years. His exit of Turkey is something like Totti’s Roma departure,” Kural said.
After upwards of months of speculation, Obradovic did not renew his contract to have a break in his career last week.
Fenerbahce spent around €30million last year to build their squad but the club will face a budget reduction like many other basketball clubs in Europe after they hit hard financially by COVID-19. This will force the club to formulate different strategies for rebuilding their squad for the next season.
”Whoever comes after Obradovic is very difficult to achieve the same success. Moreover, even he remained at Fenerbahce, it would have been difficult to reach the same achievements next season, if Fenerbahce will reduce their budget for the basketball,” Kural said.
“Supporters always want to see a good team but the board takes the responsibility of the club and they have to balance the budget. This can not be achieved by spending over 20€ million every year.”
Kural emphasized that many teams in Europe re-build their squad every year. He believes that Fenerbahce under the management of Obradovic did a good job in the EuroLeague since the club made five Final Four appearances during this period.
This is why Fenerbahce is among the top teams in Europe like Spain’s Real Madrid and Russia’s CSKA Moscow, according to Kural.
“The main goal of playing in the EuroLeague is reaching the Final Four, not to be a champion. If you target to win the title, this is wrong.”
The Final-Four (semi-finals) and the Final are played with a single-game knockout in the EuroLeague. Therefore, each team is given a chance of winning the title which means having the best team on paper would not be enough to reach the trophy.
”When you look at the last 10 years in EuroLeague, the teams that displayed the best performances have won the titles instead of the other clubs that had the best squads. In 2012, CSKA Moscow was the best team in Europe in that time but they could not lift the title.”
“Fenerbahce can remain as one of Europe’s most prestigious basketball clubs with a lower budget as Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas achieved this in the past recent seasons.”
‘Obradovic’s legacy ‘success-oriented’
Kural gave a warning on the future of the club in the post-Obradovic era adding that his legacy can turn into a curse if the club will not be successful on the ground.
“Unfortunately, the Obradovic legacy is a bit of a success-oriented legacy. If there is no success in the future, his legacy can turn into a curse. But regardless of the club’s performance in the future, he left a great legacy in Turkey by helping many young people love this game and attend the matches to support their teams in the stand.”
In the last season of Obradovic, Fenerbahce failed to meet expectations in both EuroLeague and the ING Basketball Super Lig of Turkey. Before the cancelation of the EuroLeague season in May over the coronavirus pandemic, Fenerbahce were seated at the 8th place with only 13 wins and 15 defeats in 28 games.
In the Turkish league, Fenerbahce won 17 out of 22 games to stand at the third spot before the league was called off due to the virus.
“Sometimes, if there is no harmony among players, you can not be successful. Obradovic’s style of getting maximum efficiency from his players backfires when the team’s psychology is broken. There was no self-confidence. Everyone in the team gets angry at each other. Some players were not eager. Even the most successful teams in history had such bad seasons.”
‘Obradovic not want to work with lower-budget teams’
Kural believes that regardless of the games’ results, Obradovic already decided to leave the club.
”Even if Fenerbahce had been successful last season, Obradovic would still have left. It was very obvious. It was just like the same process in his departure from Panathinaikos. He does not want to work with lower-budget teams. He wants to work with the top team for the ultimate goal. It was already unlikely for him to remain at Fenerbahce after his contract was not renewed during the season.”
The Serbian legend won five EuroLeague titles with the Greek club Panathinaikos and claimed the Greek league crown for 11 seasons from 1999 to 2012.
Following Obradovic’s departure, Fenerbahce Beko will open a new page for the upcoming season with a new head coach and players to bolster their squad.
As the first step for the new season, the club extended Italian general manager Maurizio Gherardini’s contract for two more years.
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