"Even though I am Turkish and know the city, living here is quite different," Hamit Altıntop tells UEFA.com as he continues to find his feet in Istanbul with Galatasaray AŞ.
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If Hamit Altıntop is thriving on the field under Fatih Terim as Galatasaray AŞ prepare to face his home-town side FC Schalke 04 in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, he tells UEFA.com the culture shock of his summer move to Turkey has marked less of a smooth transition.
"I already knew Fatih Terim's working style before," said the 30-year-old Turkish international midfielder, signed from Real Madrid CF in July. "I know his system and the way he manages a team [from the national squad], so I really don't think I had any trouble adapting. But sure, outside of football, you have to adapt to a different atmosphere.
"Additionally I am in a new country. Even though I am Turkish and even though I know the city [Istanbul], living here is quite different. Even though everything is not perfect yet, I believe that both the team and I are on the right track and I'm hopeful about our prospects."
Altintop was born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, and played for Schalke from 2003–07, yet any sentiment for his old team will be eclipsed by the prospect of success in the world's top club competition when Galatasaray take on the Königsblauen. Galatasaray have reached this stage for the first time in 12 years, and Hamit feels the example of FC Porto's success under José Mourinho in 2003/04 can inspire them to raise their horizons even higher.
"We saw what could be done when Porto won the Champions League in 2003/04," explained the former FC Bayern München player, who spent a solitary campaign in Madrid. "When you go out and enjoy the football you play and think only about the football, the success will come, anything can be achieved. It is unbelievably motivating.
"The Champions League truly has a special atmosphere," he added ahead of the Schalke double-header on 20 February and 12 March. "It is truly a special event. Every match is an experience, it's exciting: preparing for the games and being the centre of media attention just elevates the excitement. It's truly the pinnacle of football, it makes me want to be a better player."
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