Best Turkish Soccer Players of All Time

Vince Massara

Turkish soccer has produced some exceptional players throughout its history. From their skills on the pitch to their achievements on the international stage, these players have made a significant impact on the world of football. Names like Hakan Şükür, Tuncay Şanlı, and Nuri Şahin come to mind – players who not only represented top European clubs but also achieved remarkable success.

However, these are just a few examples of the talented individuals who have shaped Turkish football. So, who are the best Turkish soccer players of all time? Let's delve into the discussion and explore the talents that have left a lasting legacy in Turkish football history.

Hakan Şükür

Hakan Şükür, known as the Bull of the Bosphorus and Kral (king), is a retired Turkish footballer who played as a striker. He was famous for his exceptional goal-scoring ability and numerous record-breaking achievements. Şükür spent most of his professional career at Galatasaray, one of Turkey's premier football clubs. During his time with Galatasaray, he established himself as one of the greatest Turkish players of all time.

Şükür's success extended beyond his club career. He also represented Turkey at the international level, earning 112 caps and scoring 51 goals. His incredible knack for finding the back of the net made him one of the most prolific strikers of the modern era. In fact, Şükür holds the record for the quickest goal in World Cup history, scoring just 11 seconds into a match in 2002.

Throughout his career, Şükür scored an impressive 383 goals for both club and country. His scoring prowess, combined with his technical skills and football intelligence, firmly established him among Turkey's finest footballers. Although he's retired from the game, Şükür's impact on Turkish football will always be remembered.

Rüştü Reçber

Let's shift our focus to another influential figure in Turkish soccer, Rüştü Reçber. Rüştü Reçber, a former Turkish goalkeeper, has left a lasting impact on the sport. Throughout his career, he proudly represented Turkey and is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers in the country's history.

Rüştü Reçber began his football journey as a youth player for Galatasaray before moving on to play for various clubs, including Barcelona. Despite facing limited playing time at Barcelona due to the non-European quota in La Liga, Rüştü Reçber displayed exceptional skills as a goalkeeper. He maintained an impressive record of conceding less than a goal per game throughout his club career, showcasing his talent and consistency.

One of Rüştü Reçber's notable achievements was his role in Turkey's UEFA Cup victory in 2000. He played a crucial part in helping his team secure the title, demonstrating his ability to perform under pressure on the European stage.

In addition to his success at the club level, Rüştü Reçber had a remarkable international career. With 120 caps, he holds the record for the most appearances for the Turkish national team. He played a key role in Turkey's success in the 2002 World Cup and was named the best goalkeeper in European competitions that same year. Rüştü Reçber's performances were so outstanding that he was selected for the 2002 FIFA World Cup all-star team.

After retiring from professional football, Rüştü Reçber transitioned into coaching and has continued to contribute to the sport. His legacy as one of Turkey's greatest goalkeepers remains intact, and his achievements will be remembered for years to come.

Arda Turan

Arda Turan, a highly accomplished Turkish football player, has had an impressive career, making significant contributions to the sport. Turan played for six seasons in Spain, with four seasons at Atletico Madrid and two seasons at Barcelona. During his time at Atletico Madrid, he achieved great success, winning a UEFA Europa League title and a La Liga title. He showcased his skills on the field, particularly his exceptional ball control, dribbling abilities, and vision. Turan even captained Galatasaray at the young age of 21, demonstrating his leadership qualities. In 2008, he was recognized as one of the best young football players in the world. After retiring from playing, Turan transitioned into a managerial role.

Some of Arda Turan's career highlights include playing for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, winning a UEFA Europa League title and a La Liga title. He also captained Galatasaray at a young age and is known for his ball control, dribbling skills, and vision on the field. After retiring, Turan moved into a managerial role. His contributions to the Turkish national team include participating in the World Cup and the Turkish Super League. Turan's skill and leadership have made him a prominent figure in Turkish football history.

Emre Belözoğlu

Emre Belözoğlu is a highly accomplished Turkish football player who's made significant contributions to the sport, following in the footsteps of Arda Turan. Belözoğlu began his club career in the Galatasaray youth system and went on to play for prestigious clubs such as Inter Milan and Newcastle. He's known for his exceptional dead-ball skills and playmaking abilities, which have contributed to his success both domestically and internationally.

During his time at Inter Milan, Belözoğlu was part of the team that won the Italian Cup, showcasing his talent and ability to compete at the highest level. He's also represented the Turkish national team in various international tournaments, including the FIFA World Cup.

However, Belözoğlu's career hasn't been without controversy. He's faced issues with racism throughout his playing days, which is a disturbing reality of the sport. Additionally, his aggressive playing style has led to a high number of disciplinary cards, with 173 yellow cards and 13 red cards accumulated over the years.

Despite these challenges, Emre Belözoğlu remains highly regarded in Turkish football. His contributions to the sport, both at the club and national levels, have solidified his place among the best Turkish players of all time. His skills, passion, and dedication to the game continue to inspire and leave a lasting impact on the football community.

Tugay Kerimoğlu

Tugay Kerimoğlu is a highly respected figure in Turkish soccer, with a remarkable career both on and off the field. Throughout his extensive playing career, Tugay demonstrated his longevity and experience, playing over 700 club games and earning 94 international caps. His talent was so highly regarded that even Sir Alex Ferguson praised him, stating that he could play for any team in the world.

One of the standout moments of Tugay's club career was his instrumental role in Galatasaray's UEFA Cup success. His contributions to the team solidified his status as one of the greatest Turkish players of all time.

But Tugay's impact on Turkish soccer extends beyond his playing days. Currently serving as the coordinator of the Galatasaray youth academy, he's actively involved in nurturing the next generation of Turkish talent. His dedication to developing young players is commendable and speaks to his passion for the sport.

Tugay was known for his exceptional skills and versatility on the field. He excelled in midfield, using his ability to control the game and dictate play. His vision and passing accuracy set him apart, making him a valuable asset to any team he played for.

Tugay's contributions to Turkish soccer, both as a player and in his current role, have left a lasting legacy. His achievements, both domestically and internationally, have solidified his place as one of the greatest Turkish players in history.

Hasan Şaş

Hasan Şaş, a former professional soccer player from Turkey, is widely recognized for his exceptional versatility and significant contributions to Galatasaray's success both domestically and in Europe. Şaş, who played as both a midfielder and a winger, showcased his adaptability on the field, making him a valuable asset to his team.

Here are four reasons why Şaş remains a notable figure in the history of Turkish soccer:

  1. UEFA Cup Triumph: One of Şaş's greatest achievements was being a key member of the Galatasaray team that achieved a historic victory in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup. This triumph not only brought glory to Galatasaray but also elevated the reputation of Turkish football on the European stage.
  2. Domestic Successes: Şaş played a crucial role in Galatasaray's dominance in domestic competitions. He helped the team secure multiple Turkish Super Lig titles, further solidifying their position as one of the top clubs in the country.
  3. International Influence: Representing the Turkish national team, Şaş played a vital role in their performances at major tournaments. His skills and contributions were instrumental in Turkey's success in reaching the semifinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the quarterfinals of the UEFA European Championship in 2000.
  4. Transition to Coaching: After retiring from playing, Şaş transitioned to coaching. He worked with various teams, including Galatasaray and the Turkish national team, sharing his knowledge and experience to nurture the next generation of Turkish soccer talents.

Hasan Şaş's versatility, success at both club and international levels, and transition to coaching make him a significant figure in Turkish soccer history, deserving his place among the best Turkish soccer players of all time.

Nihat Kahveci

Nihat Kahveci, known as one of the greatest Turkish soccer players of all time, had a remarkable career in the top leagues of Spain. Playing for Real Sociedad and Villarreal, Kahveci scored an impressive 75 goals in 195 appearances in La Liga. In the 2002/03 season, he finished second in the top scorer chart, a remarkable achievement considering the tough competition in one of the top four leagues. Furthermore, Real Sociedad secured a second-place finish in the league that season, highlighting Kahveci's contribution to the team's success.

Kahveci's success in Spain not only solidified his reputation as one of Turkey's finest players but also showcased the talent and skill of Turkish players in top European leagues. His performances in La Liga inspired younger generations to pursue football careers and contributed to the growing presence of Turkish players in Europe.

To illustrate Kahveci's impact, let's take a look at the following table:

Club CareerGoals in La LigaTop Scorer Rank
Real Sociedad592

As the table demonstrates, Kahveci's goal-scoring ability was evident throughout his club career in Spain, establishing him as a formidable force on the field. His contributions to both Real Sociedad and Villarreal solidified his place among the greatest Turkish soccer players of all time.

Gökhan Gönül

Gökhan Gönül, a highly versatile Turkish soccer player, has made significant contributions to both defense and offense throughout his career. Here are four key points that highlight his achievements and impact:

  1. Club Career:

Gökhan Gönül began his professional journey at Gençlerbirliği before joining Fenerbahçe, where he spent over a decade. During his time at Fenerbahçe, he won numerous domestic titles, including the Turkish Super League and the Turkish Cup, showcasing his skills as a top-level player.

  1. Turkish National Team:

Gönül's experience and commitment to his country are evident in his performances for the Turkish national team. He's represented Turkey in major international competitions, such as the UEFA European Championship and the FIFA World Cup, proving his ability to compete at the highest level.

  1. Versatility and Skills:

Known for his speed, defensive capabilities, and overlapping runs, Gönül has established himself as a reliable and adaptable player. While primarily playing as a right-back, he's also showcased his versatility by operating as a right midfielder when needed.

  1. Contributions to both Defense and Offense:

Gönül's ability to contribute effectively to both defense and offense sets him apart. His defensive skills ensure solidity at the back, while his attacking prowess and overlapping runs provide an additional threat to the opposition's defense.

With his consistent performances and dedication to the sport, Gökhan Gönül has rightfully earned his place as one of the best Turkish soccer players. His impact on the field, both for his club and the national team, has solidified his status as a respected and influential figure in Turkish football.

Okan Buruk

Okan Buruk, a highly skilled and creative midfielder, had a significant impact on Turkish soccer throughout his career. Considered one of the best Turkish players, Buruk enjoyed success in his club career and played a crucial role in the national team's impressive performances in major tournaments.

He started his journey as a youth player at Galatasaray and quickly rose through the ranks, showcasing his immense talent. Buruk played for top Turkish clubs like Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, as well as internationally for Italian club Internazionale and Spanish club Tenerife. His outstanding performances on the field earned him a well-deserved place in the prestigious FIFA 100 list, cementing his legendary status in Turkish soccer.

Despite facing tough competition, Buruk's presence on the national team was instrumental in Turkey's achievements in major tournaments. He played a key role in the 2002 World Cup, where Turkey finished in an impressive third place, as well as in Euro 2000. Buruk's technical skills, vision, and ability to control the midfield were admired by fans and experts alike.

After retiring from playing, Buruk successfully transitioned into coaching and has managed several Turkish clubs, achieving further success in his new role. Okan Buruk's impact on Turkish soccer can't be overstated, and he'll always be remembered as one of the country's greatest players.

Hamit Altıntop

Hamit Altıntop, a highly skilled and versatile player, had a significant impact on Turkish soccer throughout his career. Here are four reasons why Altıntop deserves recognition as one of the best Turkish soccer players of all time:

  1. Impressive Club Career: Altıntop played for top clubs such as Schalke 04, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid. His time in Germany, particularly in the Bundesliga, showcased his talent and contributed to his success.
  2. Puskas Award Winner: Altıntop is the only Turkish player to have won the prestigious Puskas Award. This honor is given to the player who scores the most beautiful goal of the year, highlighting Altıntop's exceptional skill and finesse.
  3. Versatility on the Field: Altıntop was known for his ability to excel in different positions, especially in midfield and on the wings. His adaptability made him a valuable asset to both his club teams and the Turkish national team.
  4. Long-Range Striking Ability: Altıntop's powerful long-range strikes were a standout feature of his playing style. His ability to score from a distance added an extra dimension to his game and made him a constant threat to opposing goalkeepers.

Altıntop's impressive club career, Puskas Award win, versatility, and long-range striking ability all contribute to his status as one of the best Turkish soccer players of all time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Turkish Player Was Erased From History?

Hakan Şükür, a Turkish football player, has been largely forgotten and erased from history due to political controversies and exile. Despite his impressive career as a prolific striker and holding a World Cup record, Şükür's disappearance from the public eye has overshadowed his legacy.

Is Football Popular in Turkey?

Football is incredibly popular in Turkey, deeply ingrained in the culture, and renowned for its famous rivalries. The sport generates immense excitement, particularly for the national team in international competitions. Turkey's football scene is constantly evolving, with a focus on youth development and the inclusion of foreign players. The country also boasts modern and impressive stadiums, which add to the overall experience for fans. Football tourism has also become a significant contributor to the sport's growth in Turkey. Overall, football holds a special place in Turkish society and continues to captivate the hearts of its people.

What Teams Did Hakan Sukur Play For?

Hakan Şükür had a successful career playing for several teams. He started at Galatasaray, his hometown club in Turkey, where he became a legend and won numerous domestic and international titles. From there, he moved to Italy, joining Inter Milan and later Parma. In Italy, he showcased his skills and contributed to his teams' success. Hakan then made a move to England, signing with Blackburn Rovers. Although his time at Blackburn was relatively short, he made an impact and helped the team during his tenure. Hakan Şükür's career spanned different leagues and countries, leaving a lasting legacy in the world of football.


The top Turkish soccer players in history have had a lasting impact on the global football stage. Their achievements and success in top European leagues, like Hakan Şükür's impressive goal-scoring record and Tuncay Şanlı's versatility, have solidified Turkey's position in the world of football.

These players, along with others like Nuri Şahin and Hakan Çalhanoğlu, have showcased their skills and made significant contributions to the growth and recognition of the sport in Turkey.

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