x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Kewell's Turkish revival

The ex-Liverpool winger Harry Kewell and teammate Milan Baros are thriving again at the Turkish club Galatasary.

Milan Baros and his former teammate Harry Kewell are enjoying life and playing together again at Galatasary.
Milan Baros and his former teammate Harry Kewell are enjoying life and playing together again at Galatasary.

If the Bosporus has healing waters, then Harry Kewell and Milan Baros have recently taken advantage of its magical powers. The former Liverpool pair were reunited in the Turkish capital after signing for Galatasaray this summer in an attempt to resurrect their flagging careers. Australia winger Kewell, 30, arrived straight from Anfield after five injury riddled seasons in which he managed just 93 league appearances.

Baros took a longer but equally unsuccessful route to Istanbul - the Czech international managed only 16 goals in three seasons for Aston Villa, Lyon and Portsmouth and suffered the ignominy of struggling even to secure a place on the bench towards the end of his ill-fated spell in France. So it was no surprise when both men jumped at the chance to make a fresh start - and both must be delighted with the choice they made.

Kewell scored on his league debut against Denizlispor on Aug 23 and added two more goals before - yes, you guessed it - an injury sidelined him (not a serious one), while Baros is knocking them in at a rate we haven't seen since he left Banik Ostrava as an eager 20-year-old - six in his first four games made him an instant hit. The next big challenge for the pair comes tonight when they meet Olympiacos in one of the most attractive opening games in the Uefa Cup group stage.

This meeting of domestic champions - "Gala" are Turkey's title holders while Olympiakos have won four straight Greek league gongs - is at the former's hostile Ali Sami Yen Stadium and will go a long way towards revealing the chances of both clubs progressing from a Group B that includes Benfica, Hertha Berlin and Ukrainian outsiders Metalist. For both teams this match might feel, at first, like a runners-up prize - the pair initially took part in the Champions League but were unexpectedly knocked out in the final qualifying round.

Now the dust has settled on those setbacks, however, the players and staff will probably admit that Europe's secondary competition gives them a much more realistic chance of glory. Galatasaray have first-hand experience of the sporting achievements this competition can bestow - their triumph over Arsenal on penalties in the 2000 final in Copenhagen remains the greatest moment in their history. But the visitors possess plenty of dangerous players. One such is Darko Kovacevic, the Serbia striker who has a wealth of experience in top-level European football. Kovacevic, 35 next month, may be used sparingly these days, but showed by netting twice after coming on as a substitute in Olympiakos' 5-0 first round victory over the Danes Nordsjaelland that the instincts that made him so prolific during his spell at Real Sociedad in the late 1990s remain intact.

A potentially even bigger star is Diogo, the latest Brazilian sensation to create headlines in Europe. Just 21, he scored at a phenomenal rate for Portuguesa in his homeland and would have played for Brazil at the Olympics but for injury. Diogo joined the Greeks for £7million (Dh41.6m) in August and was also on target twice against the Danes in the first round. The Liverpool connection extends to the visitors, too - 20-year-old Argentine Sebastian Leto, on loan from the Reds at Olympiacos for the season, is likely to play on the left wing.

Kewell and Baros are two men who knows what it takes to perform well at the very highest level - they'll be hoping this match marks the start of their return to form on the European scene after so long in the doldrums. jeastham@thenational.ae