27 AEK players become league champions for first time
In winning the 2017/2018 Super League title, AEK Athens created history, becoming Greek champions just three years after competing in the second tier. AGONAsport takes a closer look at the club’s success.
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Incredibly, only five players of this 32-man AEK squad had won a championship title in the past, with Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Vasilis Lampropoulos, Niklas Hult and Jakob Johansson the sole players to have previously tasted domestic league glory. The remaining 27 had never become champions of any league in the world, something which makes AEK’s triumph even more special.
Chygrynskiy is the most decorated member of this AEK team, winning five Ukrainian Premier Leagues with Shakhtar Donetsk and the La Liga trophy as a Barcelona player. Christodoulopoulos earned a Super League gold medal with Panathinaikos, Lampropoulos was a member of the Olympiacos team which won the controversial 2007/2008 season, Hult won the Swedish league with Elfsborg and Johansson also became a champion of Sweden, albeit on the books of IFK Goteborg.
GAMMA ETHNIKI TO SUPER LEAGUE GLORY
In an impressive statistic, there are two AEK players which stayed with the team all the way from the Gamma Ethniki to Super League glory. Goalkeeper Panagiotis Dounis, who is only 21, made four appearances for the Enosis in the third tier of Greek football and is still on the club’s roster. 23-year old centre-back Adam Tzanetopoulos joined AEK in 2013, helping the club earn promotions to the Football and Super Leagues. During the 2017/2018 campaign, Tzanetopoulos competed in just the one league game, but he did score twice in the Greek Cup.
While in the Football League, Giannis Anestis, Petros Mantalos, Michalis Bakakis and Jakob Johansson signed for AEK, proving their loyalty to the club. However, Anestis and Johansson appear to be on their way out after disagreements with the Enosis’ management.
On Tuesday afternoon, seven AEK players were called up to the national team, the largest amount ever recorded in history. Greeks make up the core of this AEK team, providing leadership on and off the pitch with a real understanding of what this club stands for. Influential captain Mantalos has already committed his future to the Kitrinomavri, signing a deal which runs through to summer 2022, in turn settling fans’ worries concerning interest from foreign teams.
Players such as Panagiotis Tsintotas, Vasilis Barkas, Konstantinos Galanopoulos, Anastasios Bakasetas and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos stood out above the rest in AEK’s championship winning campaign, all taking a leading role in the club’s triumph.
KEY FOREIGN INPUT
The contribution of Las Palmas duo Sergio Araujo and Marko Livaja needs no introduction, as the pair combined for a grand total of 19 goals. Behind them, Andre Simoes covered fantastically in the centre of the park while Mantalos and Johansson sat on the sidelines with serious injuries, excelling with his passing ability and calmness when in possession. In defence, Ognjen Vranjes recovered from his minor blip in January when reportedly asking for a transfer, partnering Chygrynskiy to great effect.
Seasoned Iranian international Shojaei Masoud put pen to paper on a six-month deal in January, claiming his maiden piece of club silverware at the age of 33. Unfortunately for the midfielder, he will best be remembered at AEK for missing an open goal against Dynamo Kyiv in the UEFA Europa League.
COACHES’ MAIDEN TRIUMPH
Alongside the 27 players, head coach Manolo Jimenez and technical director Nikos Liberopoulos were able to celebrate their first ever top level championship victory. Yes, Jimenez did win Qatar’s second division when managing Al-Rayyan, but this is without doubt the Spaniard’s biggest triumph in his coaching career.
As a player, Liberopoulos came close to winning the Greek league with Panathinaikos and AEK, but he never quite managed to achieve it. The Enosis’ technical director finally has his Super League medal though, heavily involved in the training process and always animated on the bench during games.