Besiktas have dominated Turkish football and now the Istanbul giants are on the right path to becoming a European force, according to former midfielder Manuel Fernandes.
Once Istanbul's third club behind bitter rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, Turkish champions Besiktas are now one of Europe's cult favourites having emerged from the shadows of their noisy neighbours.
They have won back-to-back Super Lig titles and started a social media phenomenon with the use of phrase 'Come to Besiktas' to announce signings on Twitter.
It was used to unveil the arrival of Pepe from Real Madrid, while former Manchester City and Valencia striker Alvaro Negredo also made the move to Vodafone Park, which has fast become an appealing destination for players.
While Besiktas are poised to bow out of the Champions League last 16 – trailing Bayern Munich 5-0 heading into Wednesday's return leg – Fernandes believes Senol Gunes' men can establish themselves among the elite.
Lokomotiv Moscow star and Portugal international Fernandes, who spent three years at Besiktas – winning the 2010-11 Turkish Cup after more than 100 appearances across all competitions – told Omnisport: "Besiktas have the right structure and the best fanbase to become a European force.
"I'm sure that if they invest in their youth systems, in a matter of a few years they can fight with the strongest in Europe.
"The first step is to consistently dominate domestic football, which they have in the past years and then grow up internationally.
"This year Besiktas won their Champions League group, beating Monaco, Porto and RB Leipzig, so they are on the right path."
Reflecting on his time at Besiktas, the 32-year-old and World Cup hopeful, added: "My years at Besiktas were great. The club was undergoing some major changes and investing in great players. Our football was very attacking and attractive to watch.
"To play alongside those players was perfect, everyone knew what the others would do next. Good times.
"In Turkey, everyone - literally everyone - loves their club like a member of his family. That's how obsessive Turks are about their football.
"The atmosphere in stadiums is awesome, especially when Besiktas play at home. To any true football fan, I recommend visiting Istanbul and watching a Besiktas match live."
20. März 2018
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