Following the unexpected signings of Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, Galatasaray have admitted that their January transfer dealings have been heavily influenced by a desire to increase the club's popularity in the video game FIFA 13.
"We're in first place in the Super Lig and the knockout stages of the Champions League," said Galatasaray CEO Lutfu Aribogan, "So spending to improve the squad in the middle of the season wasn't an urgent need from a real-world standpoint. But all the kids are playing FIFA 13 with Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United and not Galatasaray. So we are trying to change this."
Selling more than 4.5 million copies worldwide in its first five days of release, FIFA 13 became the fastest selling sports video game of all time. The EA Sports title has become a major part of how young fans interact with the sport and develop valuable allegiances. A fact that is not lost on Galatasaray.
"It started when I asked my son Carlton, who is 13, why he always plays with Real Madrid and not Galatasaray," Aribogan admitted. "And he said, 'Dad, no one wants to be Milan Baros or Umut Bulut.' So we are acquiring players that the kids do want to be. Like Sneijder and Drogba. And maybe Emile Heskey next in an ironic sort of way."
But as excited as the club and their fans are about these signings, Aribogan makes it clear that their real-life performance isn't all that important.
"As I said, we're already in first place," Aribogan laughed. "They don't even have to play. But if their player ratings go down in the game, their contracts will be terminated immediately."