After proving himself as one of the most dangerous forwards in Turkey when out on loan at Fenerbache last season, Jeremain Lens’ transfer to Besiktas in the summer caused an almighty stir.
Speculation right across the Summer suggested that Lens would eventually end up going back once again to Fenerbache - but, instead, he wound up agreeing to a loan deal with one of their greatest rivals.
Despite spending pre-season heavily involved in Simon Grayson’s plans, the Netherlands international left Wearside at the start of August in order to join up with the Süper Lig Champions, with the expectation being that he’d be an astute signing for them - but, despite the initial promise, he’s found playing time hard to come by.
Lens has started just seven times in the league so far this season, struggling to dislodge former Premier League wingers Ryan Babel and Ricardo Quaresma from the Black Eagles’ starting eleven.
It would be fair to say, then, that things haven’t gone exactly to plan - so just what has gone wrong, and why has he been used so sparingly by their experienced head coach Şenol Güneş?
Well, in order to find out the latest on the former Dynamo Kyiv man and how he’s done since arriving in Istanbul, we spoke to Turkish football writer (and Besiktas fan) Kaan Bayazit - and despite his failings thus far he feels optimistic about what is yet to come from the 30-year old.
RR: So, Jeremain Lens - it’s fair to say that it hasn’t quite gone to plan for him at Besiktas. He was well thought of after his spell with Fenerbache, but he’s mainly warmed the bench since arriving in the summer. What’s going on?
KB: He’s come to a club that has won back-to-back titles - Şenol Güneş (the coach) is extremely loyal to players who have given their all for him. It was always going to be tough for Lens to get a place as a starter as long as Quaresma and Babel were fit. Additionally, these have been two positions in which he has done little rotation in the league/Europe.
RR: When he has played, has he done well? Is he just not fancied by the manager?
KB: His first break was against Trabzonspor, which came after a grueling Champions League match midweek and a derby loss the week prior in which Quaresma had gotten a red card.
It looked like Lens was going to be the hero of the night as he put Beşiktaş 2-1 up, but with the match drawing to a close he had an excellent opportunity to square a simple ball to Cenk Tosun for the easy tap in to an empty net, which would have made it 3-1.
He unfortunately decided to go for glory instead and missed the chance. Trabzon scored an equaliser almost immediately after that and it cost the team two points. That was his first chance to build up some credit with the coach, but he blew it. With tough competition on the wings, that only made things harder for him.
RR: How is Lens viewed in the media, and by the supporters?
KB: Lens was Fenerbahçe’s best performer last season,he was their big star and he is perceived as a quality player by everyone in Turkey.
RR: Obviously it’s well known that Lens will likely be a Besiktas player on a permanent basis in the summer. Do you think because of this he might get more of an opportunity to play soon?
KB: Well, it’s an optional purchase clause - not obligatory. So it isn’t certain at all. But I hope it happens as I rate Lens highly. He has lacked the confidence this season, but he could be a big player for Beşiktaş in the next few seasons. A confident and fit Lens is difficult to stop.
He has played okay - he had a great performance against Leipzig in the Champions League. But honestly he simply hasn’t been utilised well enough. Personally I felt that if he didn’t feel the pressure of “I need to put in a star-making performance” vs Trabzonspor, that he would have passed and would have won us the game.
He gave a ton of simple yet crucial lay off assists like that for Fenerbahçe last season - he knew he was guaranteed a spot and that he was Advocaat’s “prince”. So he never had that pressure, ironically had he given that assist he would have probably earned more credit with both the fans and coach than had he scored.
Frankly, Ryan Babel hasn’t shown his performance from last season (in the league) and many fans feel that Lens should start over him.