Former Arsenal and Manchester City defender Gael Clichy says it would be “special and tremendous” if his side Istanbul Basaksehir were to face Manchester United in the Europa League.
The Turkish champions travel to FC Copenhagen in the last 16 on Wednesday with a 1-0 lead from the first leg.
A quarter-final tie with United would await, providing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side see off LASK.
“It’s no secret I love England,” Clichy said.
“We have to win our first game and that will be hard, so we cannot afford to think about United.
“But if we go through and play United, it would be special and tremendous. We would play with our quality.”
Clichy was speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Euro Leagues podcast, in which the 35-year-old discussed his career, why he would love to return to England one day and how he hopes to follow in Pep Guardiola’s footsteps.
Expecting the unexpected in Turkey
Istanbul Basaksehir sealed the Turkish championship on 19 July, ending the dominance of the city’s big three clubs Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas.
They are only the sixth team to win the league since its inception in 1959, an impressive achievement for a club that formed only 30 years ago.
“We have been a bit lucky and we managed to do it,” said Clichy.
“It is a very big achievement. Since 1959, only five other teams have won the league in Turkey so for us to come in and do it is a really big achievement.”
Istanbul Basaksehir clinched the title with a 1-0 win over Kayserispor, with Clichy scoring the winning goal.
However, the title celebrations were delayed as, with 15 minutes of the game remaining, the power went out in the stadium.
“If there is one place you expect these things to happen it is Turkey,” Clichy said.
“I have been here three years and you see things you don’t see elsewhere. The beauty in Turkey is anything can happen.
“Playing Fenerbahce away last season – we scored a perfectly valid goal, the referee went to see the VAR, the VAR was power cut, so the referee cancelled the goal.”
Familiar faces help lead Basaksehir to glory
Istanbul Basaksehir have a number of other familiar faces on their books including former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel, ex-Newcastle and Chelsea forward Demba Ba, and Robinho, who spent two years at Manchester City from 2008.
All four players are in their mid-30s, but Clichy insists the quartet at not at the club to wind down their playing careers.
“We are not pre-retirement, we are working,” he said.
“When I came to visit, I told the president I am not Lionel Messi but what I can bring is what I have learnt. We bring that to the table. We played 40 plus games and I played 37.
“We are the first on the pitch, the last on the pitch. The players are learning from us and the football is going to get better in Turkey if they can keep bringing old players like us in.”
‘What Robinho will do is special’
Like Clichy, Robinho also played for Manchester City, although their time at Etihad Stadium did not coincide.
Robinho did not score for Istanbul Basaksehir this season, but Clichy says his team-mate brings many other qualities on to the pitch.
“Robinho is a very joyful Brazilian and you have to accept everything that comes with that,” he said.
“You have to accept who he is and how he is. Some people expect him to do more, but what he did 10 years ago is not possible. He is a very interesting guy and a good team-mate
“You don’t pay to come and see Clichy, because I don’t do tricks. What Robinho will do is special. You have to respect that because he was a special player.”
England return and following in Guardiola’s footsteps
Clichy only recently turned 35 and says he has no plans to retire just yet.
The former France international spent 14 years playing in England and he suggested he would be keen to return there as a player before he looks to take his career in a different direction.
“I think I still have two years in the legs, but the years spent with Pep Guardiola made me want to become a coach,” Clichy said. “I am going to give it a go because I love the way he conducts himself as manager.
“I want my three years here in Turkey, I’ve liked that I could be important to players around me.
“(After that) England is an option and staying in Turkey is an option. England is a place I love, but I call it home and coming back home would be great for my family and me.”