AGONAsport Profile: Who is new AEK boss Marinos Ouzounidis
Manolo Jimenez surprisingly left the AEK Athens hot-seat on Friday, leaving the door open for Marinos Ouzounidis to take over as Enosis boss. In accordance with his appointment, AGONAsport analyses the 49-year old’s fascinating career to date.
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In his playing days, Marinos Ouzounidis competed in the centre of defence, spending the majority of his career with Xanthi and Panathinaikos. Ouzounidis made a combined total of 272 league appearances for the two clubs between 1987 and 1997, notably enjoying huge success at Panathinaikos. Ouzounidis claimed two Greek titles with the Greens, becoming a domestic champion in 1995 and 1996 while winning the national cup competition in 1993, 1994 and 1995. He also won the Super Cup in 1993 and 1994, years which were golden for Panathinaikos on Greek territory.
Later on, Ouzounidis turned out for Le Havre, Paniliakos and APOEL Nicosia, deciding to hang up his boots in 2003. The defender also represented the senior Greek national team on 50 occasions, scoring the four goals along the way.
EARLY COACHING STEPS
Not long after retiring, Ouzounidis quickly got himself involved in the sport again, grabbing the reins of fourth division outfit Kappadokes Alexandroupolis in his hometown of Alexandroupoli. He only stayed there for a year though, as he was promptly handed an assistant coach’s role at Xanthi. In the ensuing season with Xanthi, Ouzounidis managed to make an impression, helping the club occupy fifth position in the standings.
SUCCESS IN CYPRUS
APOEL, who Ouzounidis used to play for late in his career, were the first club to gift him the opportunity to be the head coach for the 2006/2007 campaign. It was an inspired decision by the Nicosia outfit, with Ouzounidis steering APOEL to a runaway Cypriot First Division triumph, winning 20 out of 26 matches and finishing seven points ahead of nearest challengers Omonia. However, things turned sour in the next season. APOEL made an indifferent start to the year with only eight wins in 15 games, resulting in Ouzounidis taking his leave from Cyprus.
BECOMING A JOURNEYMAN
Interestingly, the average stay of Ouzounidis at one individual team is not overly large - 0.92. Following his title success at APOEL, the Greek national decided to return to the Super League, putting pen to paper on a deal with AEL. In 64 matches in charge, Ouzounidis recorded a points-per-game average of 1.12, assisting the Larissa club to make the European playoffs and qualify for the UEFA Europa League in his debut season. Unfortunately for Ouzounidis, AEL were immediately knocked out of Europe and he was sacked after a run of poor results in February 2010.
Ouzounidis endured a difficult spell at Iraklis Thessaloniki in the same year, once again receiving the sack because of indifferent showings on the pitch. The young manager was beginning to lose confidence, but when he was given the supremo job at Xanthi, his fortunes did change. Finally, Ouzounidis spent a full season with a club, keeping Xanthi out of the relegation zone with an 11th place finished. He left the team for good in April 2013.
TWO CLUBS IN ONE SEASON
During a thoroughly eventful 2013/2014 season, the coach managed at two seperate teams in the top flight - Platanias and Ergotelis. Ouzounidis failed to display his capabilities in Chania, recording a poor average of 0.57 points a game in 11 matches as manager. Predictably, he left Platanias in November 2013, but he finished a testing season on a high note with Ergotelis. Driving the Heraklion club to seventh spot in the Super League, the best result in Ergotelis’ history, he decided to call it quits with the Cretans and move on.
Ouzounidis returned to work in late 2014, offered the position of Panionios head coach. At the Nea Smyrni Panthers, he took a huge step forward, staying put with Panionios for 70 matches over the course of 19 months. In those games, Ouzounidis’ points-per-game average increased to 1.49, emerging on the winning side in 28 of his fixtures with the team. Eventually, amid rumours of Ouzounidis holding possible talks with Olympiacos, his Panionios contact was terminated on August 8, 2016.
MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF AT PANATHINAIKOS
Taking into account the hardships which Panathinaikos have faced in the past few years, you have to tip your hat to Ouzounidis and acknowledge just how hard he tried with the Athenians. Signing a deal with the Greens in December 2016, the ex-Panathinaikos player went on to manage the club through thick and thin, refusing to jump ship when everything fell apart in a simply disastrous 2017/2018 campaign. Leading players left, the owner put Panathinaikos up for sale, but Ouzounidis wasn’t willing to throw in the towel and continued working with the Prasini until the season reached its completion. Ouzounidis earned a 1.70 points average in 74 matches as Panathinaikos manager, turning himself into a fans’ favourite with his passion, desire and loyalty.
WHAT AEK CAN EXPECT
Given how much outgoing AEK manager Manolo Jimenez achieved for the Enosis, Ouzounidis certainly has big boots to fill. First of all, he has to shape the squad in a short space of time and prepare for an important 2018/2019 season, in particular the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds.
In Greece, many believe Ouzounidis is actually the best candidate and can guide AEK to a second successive Super League crown. Ouzounidis and Jimenez like their teams to play intense, attacking football, and Ouzounidis won’t have a problem finding common ground with AEK’s Greek core. Preferring a 4-4-1-1 formation, he can get the best out of the group and will be on the lookout for reinforcements after Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Jakob Johansson and Sergio Araujo all left the Kitrinomavri. It’s a tall order to reach the level with Jimenez did, but Ouzounidis is a talented man and is capable of taking AEK to new heights.