The 2003/04 Superleague season was one of surprises - and fantastic memories for three sides: champions Fenerbahçe SK, Turkish Cup winners Trabzonspor and UEFA Cup surprise package Gençlerbirligi SK. While Trabzonspor and Gençlerbirligi celebrated muscling in on the party, traditional Istanbul heavyweights Besiktas JK and Galatasaray SK were left to lick their wounds after seasons both will be keen to forget.
Initially it looked as if a new-look Fenerbahçe would also struggle to live up to the burden of expectation as Christoph Daum's side kicked off the season with a shock 3-0 home defeat against Istanbulspor AS.
Besiktas set pace
Fenerbahçe steadily improved as the season progressed, but they looked to be out of the title reckoning at the half-way stage as they reached the winter break eleven points behind leaders Besiktas - with Trabzonspor in second, nine points off the pace.
Fenerbahçe pull clear
What happened next few could have predicted. Besiktas, perhaps a victim of over confidence, imploded in the second half of the season, losing eight and winning just five of their remaining 17 matches as Fenerbahçe soared to the top of the table. With five games to go Daum's side ended Besiktas' title challenge, winning 3-1 at the Inönü stadium to pull clear of their rivals. Fenerbahçe eventually finished a staggering 14 points ahead of Besiktas, who were offered scant consolation of third place and a UEFA Cup spot from a season that had started with such promise.
Nobre leads revival
Marcio Nobre, a mid-season signing on loan from EC Cruzeiro, proved the catalyst for Fenerbahçe's revival, scoring 12 times in 18 games to complement Pierre van Hooijdonk's team-leading 24 goals as Daum became the first German to guide Fenerbahçe to the title - and in style. Only Konyaspor striker Zafer Biryol would better Van Hooijdonk, finishing the season with 25 goals from 33 appearances.
Dogan the difference
Trabzonspor also made significant changes during the winter break, and the appointment of Ziya Dogan sparked the start of a stunning eleven-match winning run which resulted in a second-placed finish and the promise of UEFA Champions League football for the first time. Trabzonspor's Guinean midfielder Ibrahima Yattara must also take his share of the plaudits, leading the league with 15 assists as he proved the creative hub of the Black Sea club. And there was a trophy to celebrate too asTrabzonspor won the Turkish Cup with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Gençlerbirligi in the final.
With Trabzonspor otherwise engaged in Europe, the Ankara club will get another shot at the UEFA Cup, the least they deserve after a thrilling European run this season that saw them knock out Blackburn Rovers FC, Sporting Clube de Portugal and Parma AC before finally succumbing to eventual finalists Valencia CF after extra-time.
Besiktas fans may not look back on the season with pride, but at least their side was competitive which was more than Galatasaray SK could claim after arguably their worst ever season - finishing sixth and bowing out of the Champions League at the group stage. Galatasaray finished a massive 22 points behind Fenerbahçe, losing ten times in a season for the first time in 22 years and failing to qualify for Europe for the first time since the 1989/90 season.
Adanaspor AS and Elazigspor were early victims of the drop and they were joined in the second division by Bursaspor who fought valiantly to the end but were relegated for the first time since the Turkish league began in 1959.
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