A hero in his homeland for his exploits as a Galatasaray AŞ player over two decades, former Turkey defender Bülent Korkmaz is now making his mark in Azerbaijan as coach of national champions FK Bakı. The 41-year-old was appointed coach in October and is enjoying playing a leading role as Bakı, currently fourth, look to the future both on and off the pitch. Here the 2000/01 UEFA Cup winner and former Galatasaray coach tells uefa.com that he hopes to use all his experience "to leave a good impression on Azeri football".
uefa.com: Why did you leave Galatasaray in May?
Bülent Korkmaz: Galatasaray asked me for help when they really needed me. Throughout my playing career I had been tied to the club and I gave everything to succeed as coach just as I had done previously on the pitch. At the end of the season I had a serious talk with club's board and we decided to end our co-operation with no hard feelings.
uefa.com: Why did you decide to come to Azerbaijan?
Korkmaz: The level of Azeri football may be lower than in Turkey, but here I have the chance to use my experience in ways other than just coaching. I'm involved in improving the club's infrastructure. Bakı are close to finishing the construction of their own training centre. I was impressed by the scale of Bakı president Hafiz Mammadov's plans. Also it was important that the vice-president of the club is my countryman Tunc Afsar, who is well-known in Turkey. I like it here and do not regret my choice, not for a second.
uefa.com: What have you introduced to Azeri football?
Korkmaz: First of all, I have impressed upon the players the need to take a more professional attitude towards their job. I demand respect in training and have sacked five players already. The team has to be like a family. For example, we have breakfast together every morning and eat lunch together after training. I really want to leave a good impression on Azeri football.
uefa.com: You have fielded a number of young players in your first few games. Are they good enough to play in the Premyer Liqasi?
Korkmaz: If a club wants to be successful it needs to start from its reserves. We have to trust young players because it is the only way Azeri football will progress. There are a lot of talented players, but you need to nurture them. The more you trust them the more they will be able to take the step up to the highest level. And you need to remember that the '8 plus 3' limit on foreign players per team will be implemented from next season.
uefa.com: Who do you consider to be your main rivals in the Premyer Liqasi?
Korkmaz: I rate FK Qarabağ and FC İnter Bakı very highly. This is largely due to the fact they have a lot of skilled domestic players. In football in general and in Azerbaijan in particular motivation and the ability to fight for the full 90 minutes plays a key role. It's too early for us to talk about qualifying for Europe. At the moment I'm only thinking about the next match.
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