Manolo Jimenez’s first 100 matches in charge of AEK
AEK Athens are facing one of the biggest games in the club’s recent history on Thursday, as the Union prepare to play Austria Vienna for a place in the UEFA Europa League knockout stages. The main reason why they even have this opportunity is Manolo Jimenez. In his second spell in charge of AEK, the Spaniard has taken the capital outfit to new heights.
Manolo Jimenez first joined AEK in October 2010, taking over the reigns from sacked Dusan Bajevic. It turned out to be a successful first season in charge too, with Jimenez leading AEK to an impressive Greek Cup triumph to win his second professional trophy since going into management. However, almost exactly a year after signing a contract, Jimenez left the Greek capital by mutual consent.
Nevertheless, in January 2017, Jimenez made his return to Athens following Jose Morais’ departure. Just like the first time, he immediately made an impression with AEK, steering the club to another Greek Cup final and then performing brilliantly in the European playoffs. AEK did lose in the Champions League qualifying round to CSKA Moscow, but Jimenez managed to help the players recover before making the Europa League group stages in impressive fashion. Jimenez’s enthusiastic, passionate coaching style has powered the Union to first place in the Super League, something which has raised hopes among AEK fans that a first league title in over twenty years could be on the cards.
The 3:0 victory against Platanias on November 27 saw Jimenez hit the century mark with AEK, making him one of only three AEK managers to oversee more than 100 club matches. The others are Dusan Bajevic and Fernando Santos, two coaches who are legends for the AEK faithful. If we take a look at the statistics for all three bosses, then we can get a feel for just how much of a rollercoaster ride it has been for Jimenez.
Dusan Bajevic: 324 victories, 127 draws, 100 defeats, 551 matches.
Fernando Santos: 86 victories, 27 draws, 24 defeats, 137 matches.
Manolo Jimenez: 55 victories, 21 draws, 26 defeats, 102 matches.
To be honest, it’s clear just how much more Jimenez has to achieve in order to be mentioned in the same breath as Dusan Bajevic. The hugely successful Serbian manager won an incredible four league titles, one cup, one league cup and one super cup with AEK, whereas Santos and Jimenez have only taken two cups between them. Jimenez’s win percentage is just over 50%, however it’s worth remembering that this AEK team does not have the star names it once did.
One thing that Jimenez lacks with AEK is a true goalscorer. The team is full of talented players, but there isn’t a striker on the club’s books who will bag you twenty or thirty goals a season. This especially becomes apparent when browsing who has scored the most goals for all three of AEK’s longest standing managers.
Vasilis Dimitriadis - 107 goals, Alexandros Alexandris - 68 goals, Daniel Batista - 68 goals.
Nikos Liberopoulos - 29 goals, Vassilios Tsiartas - 28 goals, Demis Nikolaidis - 27 goals.
Lazaros Christodoulopoulos - 16 goals, Ismael Blanco - 15 goals, Sergio Araujo - 13 goals.
If Jimenez had a striker the calibre of Demis Nikolaidis in his team now, AEK could really achieve something special. AEK drop so many points, both in Greece and Europe, because the team simply cannot take advantage of scoring chances. It says a lot that Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, a midfielder by trade, is AEK’s top scorer under Jimenez.
Taking that into account, Jimenez’s record of 55 wins in 102 matches seems quite impressive. He has truly become a firm member of the AEK family, winning the hearts of the club’s fans with his sheer desire to assist the club in rising to the top of the Greek pile. Despite taking AEK to the Champions League in the summer, his greatest achievement to date will probably go down as holding AC Milan to two consecutive 0:0 draws in the Europa League group stage.
It’s doubtful if Jimenez will ever reach the heights that Bajevic achieved, but he does have the potential to write himself into the AEK history books. The way things are going, AEK certainly won’t mind if the Spaniard stays for another 100 games in charge.