Influenced by a Spanish background, Galatasaray assistant coach Ismael García Gómez aims to help this current crop of talent achieve success.
Football is blessed with a plethora of inimitable stadiums worldwide that capture part of the unique essence of atmospheres beyond compare. The list is endless from La Bombonera in Argentina to Signal Iduna Park in Germany to the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Serbia.
Holding a capacity of over 52,500 in the city of Istanbul, RAMS Stadium plays host to Turkish club Galatasaray, supported by one of the most intense and passionate fanbases in world football.
‘Welcome to hell’ was the choreography message that could be read by the players walking out of their Champions League match against English giants Manchester United – A message that never ceases to disappoint.
Standing alone as the most successful club in the country with 23 Süper Lig titles, Galatasaray is on course to add to that number with UEFA Europa League commitments also at the forefront of attention.
Boasting phenomenal talents in the form of Mauro Icardi, Hakim Ziyech, Dries Mertens, Wilfried Zaha, and Lucas Torreira, it’s no wonder another successful season is firmly on the cards.
Experiencing the journey so far is assistant coach Ismael García Gómez, collaborating shoulder to shoulder with manager Okan Buruk to form a detailed plan of action.
Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, Gómez explained his story growing up and how possessing a Spanish background helped him develop as a coach.
“Like for most people in Spain, football is a religion and a sport that I grew up with having found a love for the game at an early age,” Gómez told The Inner Sanctum.
“After I realised I would not make it as a professional player, I received my degree studying sports science because I wanted to continue my career in football.
“From there I achieved my UEFA coaching license and began to work my up working within academies which helped me improve. In the past few years, my career has taken off to the next level at a more professional level which is where I aspire to be.”
From working for Deportivo La Coruña, Mallorca, Asteras Tripolis, and Udinese in a multitude of roles, Gómez landed his big opportunity amongst Turkey’s biggest club as an assistant.
The 35-year-old illuminated the specific role and touched on what’s required to perform in an important position on the bench.
“The priority is to always assist the head coach which is extremely important,” Gómez confirmed.
“The amount of work and responsibilities at Galatasaray is huge, so for me it’s about making life easy for the manager which involves preparing the training sessions, forming game plans for matchday, and analysing video footage from our games to identify strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
“There are a lot of hours put into the structure behind the scenes but it is a very rewarding experience, especially because the coaching staff get along very well.”
Possession-based football and playing out from the back have evolved into a tactical phenomenon over the past decade which has transcended the modern game as we know it.
Forming a strong relationship with Okan Buruk in the dugout, Gómez attempts to implement his Spanish background to put forward new ideas and innovations.
“From Buruk’s last experience, he was coaching İstanbul Başakşehir which had great success winning the Super Lig title. After that experience, he wanted to bring in a new assistant and from there I was selected in the role where our relationship has been very good since day one.
“Because of my Spanish background and having coached in other European countries, I try to work with Buruk to share my ideas, even though the head coach is responsible for everything.
“I think my ability to adapt has helped me get to where I am today because this is an important trait not only in football but in day-to-day life. In Turkey, I need to adjust to the culture, Turkish football, and Galatasaray which sometimes we forget that there is so much preparation that occurs off the pitch.”
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Ranked seventh in the UEFA coefficient standings (a system calculating a total nation’s points based on clubs’ results in UEFA competitions) Turkey is somewhat underrated when it comes to pedigree amongst Europe’s elite.
Having settled into the environment for a few months now, the Ourense-born assistant shared his thoughts on Turkish football.
“In terms of the players and their individual quality, I rate them very highly,” Gomez said.
“As a competition, the Turkish league is very difficult because even for the big clubs, it can become a struggle to control games with the passionate and intense environment during away days.
“I have noticed that there is a lot of transitional play from one end of the pitch to the other, so the tempo of the game must be managed to a high standard to allow more control and dictate the flow.”
Sitting equal top alongside Fenerbahçe with one loss in the first 15 rounds, Galatasaray is once again a dominant force to be taken seriously.
Paired with Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Champions League group stage, the Istanbul club conquered Erik Ten Hag’s men at Old Trafford and took it right to Bayern in both fixtures.
Despite narrowly missing out on knockout stage qualification for the Champions League, Galatasaray finished above the Red Devils to gain Europa League entry in a tournament in which they can make some noise – Both on the pitch and in the stands.
Asked about the positive season thus far, Gómez reiterated that there are no secrets attached.
“One of the keys is that we try to continue building consistency and believing in our football project with the coaching staff and players to ensure we are all on the same page.
“The quality of the playing group is something to highlight because I believe we have a very good squad who can contribute with different characteristics and strengths which is extremely valuable.
“Another benefit that is helping us is the experience of the head coach in the Turkish league, especially because it usually takes more time to adjust to the football environment. I’m not suggesting that it is more or less difficult compared to other leagues, but it’s very different.
“We are very satisfied with the way things are turning out and we know that this particular team can provide a lot of joy and excitement to the supporters.”
Compared with some of the best atmospheres in world football, the Galatasaray faithful are complete diehard fanatics, ultimately acting as the twelfth man.
If you think that’s exaggerating, then perhaps a place in the Guinness World Records will change that view. Over a decade ago, the club officially became the loudest supporters on earth against Fenerbahçe as the roar let out a mammoth 131.76 decibels.
In the recent 3-3 draw at home to Manchester United, a chorus of deafening boos could be heard ringing out through the stadium before they were left in raptures as they clawed their way back from a two-goal deficit.
Gómez commented on the incredible atmosphere that Galatasaray demonstrates every single outing at home.
“I always said to my good friends from the UK who were planning on watching the game that given the enormity of the occasion, the atmosphere was set to be fantastic,” he said.
“Even when travelling away from home, it is clear that football is a passion in Turkey and it’s amazing to see the energy from each fanbase giving everything they have to spur their team on to victory.
“Not only is the noise electrifying against the elite clubs like Manchester United but the same atmosphere is felt through every league match which is unbelievable to witness.”
There is a common theory floated around that European and domestic competitions are completely different in terms of preparing tactics and matching up with different styles from various clubs around the continent.
Whilst the likes of Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş are ultra-competitive in the Süper Lig, Bayern Munich and Manchester United are on another calibre respectively.
Gómez admitted that although that may be true, the approach to each matchday scenario changes very little and is judged according to the opponent.
“Of course every game is different, but the style of play that the coaching team have been enforcing within the squad is continuing to evolve and does not change much.
“The mentality is always: Play to win. We don’t play conservative football against teams like Bayern Munich and Manchester United because that is not who we are. I think that everyone saw in the six Champions League games that we played that the main idea was to win with a high tempo, high pressing, and creating chances.
“When the level is so high, you need to be precise and very clinical in key moments which decide results. Coming up against different styles and formations, it’s only natural that adjustments are required, but we stick true to our own identity.”
With so much time left to experience new adventures in the coaching landscape, Gómez’s exposure to a range of cultures over the years has equipped him for a bright future.
That said, the Spaniard is not looking too far ahead and is keeping himself grounded in the present moment to help Galatasaray achieve success.
“Right now I have my mind set on the next game I have to prepare for because, at the end of the day, football is now. The hard work and dedication I put in during this particular moment will make sure that the future takes care of itself.
“I am very happy working with Okan Buruk who is a great coach and I think he has the potential to become a very successful manager in the years to come; not only because of his knowledge but also because he is a respectful human being with a lot of class.
“To be part of this Galatasaray family is an honour with all of the history and the incredible fans, so right now I want to enjoy this adventure and see what we can achieve.”