THE WINDING ROAD
Ba, 29, joined Besiktas last September, from Chelsea, where he spent 18 months mostly on the margins of the first team, though contributed important goals there. Moving on to find fulfilment was nothing new. Turkey’s is his fifth different league, having begun his career in his native France, travelled to Belgium, and Mouscron, then won promotion from Germany’s second division to its top flight with Hoffenheim. His goals there led to his joining West Ham United. When they were relegated from the English Premier League, he switched to Newcastle United, and then Chelsea.
He had also known painful rejection as a young man. He undertook trials at Lyon and Auxerre, without success, and voyaged around England, where Barnsley, Watford and Gillingham invited him to train but offered no contract. In Germany, Stuttgart wanted him but he failed a medical. The same thing happened at Stoke.
WAR OF WORDS
Ba won his first cap for Senegal eight years ago, scoring on his debut. He has often been in competition with illustrious compatriots for a starting place in the national team, including his friend Moussa Sow, now of Fenerbahce, and former Newcastle team-mate Papiss Cisse. But he felt angry to be left out of plans for the current Africa Cup of Nations, and accused Senegal head coach, Alain Giresse, of acting “not like a manager but like someone’s puppet!” When Sow scored the winning goal against Ghana in their opening Nations Cup match, he devoted the strike to his absent friend Ba.
Ba started his Besiktas career in style. A hat-trick against Feyenoord in August put the club into the Champions League play-offs, where they lost narrowly to Arsenal. His European goalcoring form continued in the Europa League, where he struck five in four group-phase matches. In the tussle for the league, where Besiktas are second, a point behind Fenerbahce, and ahead of Galatasaray only on goal difference, Ba has eight from 13 games. He will look to add to that tally while his friend Sow, Fenerbahce’s top marksman with six so far, is away.