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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 06:42 GMT 07:42 UK
Bull on the horns of a dilemma
Hakan Sukur has not been good for Turkish team harmony
Sukur (centre) has upset his team-mates

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Brazil v Turkey semi-final | Saitama
Wed Jun 26 2002 | 1230 BST
Live on BBC1 and Radio Five Live

Hakan Sukur is discovering the truth of one of football's oldest maxims; that no player is bigger than the team.

The Turkish striker's World Cup hangs by a thread, his international future in the balance as Turkey have rampaged to the semi-finals with little aid from the man known as the Bull of the Bosphorus.

Sukur has revelled in the status of being Turkish football's biggest star.

Open Quote
All the players in the midfield think only about themselves, how am I supposed to receive passes under such conditions?
Close Quote
Hakan Sukur

Such is his popularity that his wedding was shown live on Turkish television, something not even David Beckham can match.

Sukur's fall from grace during this World Cup would compare in scale to a similar tumble in England by Beckham.

His total of 35 goals in 73 internationals has elevated him to hero status in Turkey.

Sukur's popularity went off the scale when he returned from his first spell in Italy with Torino, to lead Galatasaray to Uefa Cup glory in 2000.

That led to a return to Italy with Inter, where competition from Ronaldo and Christian Vieri prompted a move to current club Parma.

Turkey coach Senol Gunes keeps a watchful eye on Hakan Sukur
Turkey coach Gunes keeps Sukur under close observation

But Sukur's star has dimmed on the back of a disastrous World Cup.

Although Sukur's cause has not been helped by a niggling thigh injury, he has failed to decorate Turkey's remarkable campaign with a goal.

That, in turn, has drained his confidence, culminating in the quarter-final against Senegal.

Sukur looked a pallid, wraith of the once-feared striker as fluffed a catalogue of chances.

It would be bad enough if it was just a case of Sukur's goals drying up.

But in the process he has shown the same tender regard for team spirit and his team-mates' feelings as a bull in a china shop.

Sukur has been incensed, blaming his team-mates for all his shortcomings, and attempting to lord it over them.

He accused the midfield players of starving him of the ball, claiming: "It is true I was not able to create any goal opportunities, but look at that team.

"All the players in the midfield think only about themselves.

There is little warmth in the handshake as Mansiz replaces Sukur
There is little warmth in the handshake as Mansiz replaces Sukur

"They play to show up and draw attention to themselves. How am I supposed to recieve passes under such conditions?"

He further alienated his team-mates by insisting they accompany him on a trip to a mosque on their day off.

Little wonder that when he was replaced by Ilhan Msansiz, his team-mates showed a collective shoulder, colder than Captain Oates sat by the tent flap prior to his trip outside.

Open Quote
If he had stayed on the pitch any longer it could have demoralised both him and the team
Close Quote
Turkey coach Senol Gunes

And now, not to put too fine a point on it, the Bull of the Bosphorus has placed his long-standing friendship with Turkish coach and old team-mate Senol Gunes on the horns of a dilemma.

Gunes said: "Hakan is our team captain and one of the most important players for us.

"He was trying hard to score but he was really unlucky in some situations."

But even Gunes was forced to admit: "If he had stayed on the pitch any longer it could have demoralised both him and the team.

"Therefore I decided it was time to give Ilhan the chance," Gunes explained, and it was a chance Ilhan grabbed with both hands.

It could leave the Bull of the Bosphorus snorting and pawing the ground in frustration.


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