He is one of the most accomplished Turkish players of all time, being instrumental in Galatasaray's unbeaten run to a historic UEFA Cup victory in 2000, and UEFA Super Cup victory the same year. He is also a member of the Turkey national team, which he helped to a third-place finish at the 2002 World Cup. "The Fifa 100". The Guardian. guardian.co.uk, Retrieved on 2008-06-21.
Emre was quickly discovered by the Galatasaray legend Bülent Ünder, a close friend of legendary Galatasaray manager, Fatih Terim. Bülent Ünder told Salih Bulgurlu, "Wait and see. In two years, this teenager will be playing proudly within the battlegrounds of Europe," and pleaded that Emre join Galatasaray.
At the end of the 1996-97 season, Galatasaray played against rivals Besiktas JK. With the score 2-2 and the game nearly over, Emre scored a screamer to win Galatasaray not only the match, but also the Turkish Super League. After the match, Galatasaray manager and father-figure Fatih Terim met Emre, and after seeing a £4,000 Rolex watch on his wrist, shouted, “You haven’t even bought a house for your family, yet you’re going around wearing expensive watches, aren’t you at all ashamed of yourself?”. Emre’s eyes filled up with tears, responding shakily, “The watch is Arif Erdem’s, he gave it to me after I scored the goal against Besiktas". Terim was extremely sorry, and replied “Well done to Arif! We should have thought of that.”
During the 1998 season, when Emre turned 18, he got his driving license and bought his first ever car, a Mercedes A-140. The level-headed Terim approached Emre, and advised him not to live such a life at an early stage. Under the guidance of Terim, Emre became a much more responsible man.
Emre's time at Galatasaray was filled with success. Domestically, he won four Turkish Super League titles, along with three Turkish Cup trophies. In Europe, he picked up a UEFA Cup winners' medal in 2000, and at the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, he also picked up a UEFA Super Cup winners' medal after Galatasaray defeated Champions League winners Real Madrid C.F. 2–1. Belözoğlu also played in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with Galatasaray that season.
Emre gained much popularity and fame at Galatasaray, earning the reputation as one of the greatest players they had ever seen.
In 2001, he transferred to Internazionale on a free transfer, where he would become a fan favourite, wooing and fascinating the San Siro squad with his passion, charisma, and skill. It was during his time at Inter where he picked up the nickname 'Maradona of the Bosphorus', after being compared to the Argentine legend. His form for Inter was matched by his great displays for Turkey at the 2002 World Cup, where they finished third overall. In the 2002-2003 season, Emre became the 17th winner of the Pirata d'Oro (Golden Pirate), an annual award given for the Internazionale player of the year. Inter made it through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League that year, and that was as far as Emre would reach with Inter.
Emre gradually became out of favour at Inter due to persistent injuries, and after making just nineteen appearances during the 2004-2005 season, he became available for transfer. City rivals AC Milan, Manchester United, Arsenal FC, and Liverpool FC all declared their interest to sign Emre for their respective clubs, but the favourites to sign Emre were Everton and Newcastle United.
On 23 July 2008, Emre was finally unveiled at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in a signing ceremony by Fenerbahçe president Aziz Yıldırım. At the ceremony it was revealed that Emre had signed a 4-year contract and that he would wear the number 5 shirt at the Istanbul club.
After a post-match brawl in a 2006 World Cup qualification playoff match with Switzerland, Emre was banned for Turkey's next six matches and fined CHF 15,000 (£6,622) plus costs of CHF 1,000 (£440) for his alleged part in the brawl. The FIFA Appeal Committee later reduced the ban to four matches.
On 12 January 2007, Emre was charged by The Football Association with using racially-aggravated abusive and/or insulting words in an incident during a 3-0 loss to Everton on 30 December. Newcastle were unable to comment until Emre himself replied to the charge. He later stated he was angered by claims that he was racist, citing his friendship with room-mate Obafemi Martins as evidence he was not.
On 16 February 2007, the FA announced another investigation into alleged racist remarks from Emre, this time aimed against Bolton Wanderers striker El Hadji Diouf. The incident allegedly took place during Bolton's 2-1 win at St James' Park on 15 October 2006. Emre's agent denied the accusation. Diouf subsequently decided not to press charges. However on 1 March 2007 Emre faced a third racism allegation, when Watford defender Alhassan Bangura claimed he was subject of racist abuse from Emre.
On 19 March 2007 the allegations of Emre using racially-aggravated abusive and/or insulting words during the Everton match were found not proven by the FA.
|1.||2 September 2000||İstanbul, Turkey||2-0||2-0||2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying|
|2.||9 June 2002||Incheon, South Korea||1-0||1-1||2002 FIFA World Cup|
|3.||20 November 2002||Pescara, Italy||1-1||1-1||Friendly|
|4.||17 November 2007||Oslo, Norway||1-1||1-2||UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying|
|5.||10 September 2008||İstanbul, Turkey||1-1||1-1||2010 FIFA World Cup qualification|