Mass exodus from Panathinaikos to AEK continues
There seems to be a trend developing in Greek football, with nine figures in the sport moving from Panathinaikos to AEK in the past year alone.
Not that long ago, Panathinaikos were the team to beat in Greece, but terrible financial problems and disappointing performances on the pitch have brought the historic Athenian club to its knees. Thankfully for Greens fans, salvation is on its way with either Pieroj Piempongsant or Dimitris Giannakopoulos set to save Panathinaikos from complete disaster, but help has arrived too late to prevent a mass exodus to cross-town rivals AEK. The Kitrinomavri have taken a combined total of nine Panathinaikos coaches and players in the last 12 months, including manager Marinos Ouzounidis who replaced Manolo Jimenez as AEK boss on Friday.
LYBEROPOULOS STARTS THE TREND
Nevertheless, if we rewind to the beginning of summer 2017, things were very different indeed. At Panathinaikos, technical director Nikos Lyberopoulos held a conversation with Ouzounidis concerning possible transfers, urging the 49-year old to take Dimitris Kolovetsios and Ronald Vargas on a free from AEK. However, all of a sudden, it fell apart. Kolovetsios was eventually signed, but after the prolific Marcus Berg left the Prasini, Lyberopoulos also decided to depart.
Later, on September 8, Daniel Majstorovic vacated the position of AEK technical director and Lyberopoulos was drafted in. As we saw this season, he helped AEK take the Super League by storm and win the Greek title for the first time in 24 years.
KLONARIDIS PINCHED BY AEK
Forward Viktor Klonaridis spent three and a half successful seasons at Panathinaikos, finding the net on 18 occasions in 90 appearances between 2013 and 2017. During the second part of the 2016/2017 campaign, Klonaridis played on loan at the Greens from French outfit Lens, impressing Ouzounidis with some excellent performances and important goals. Panathinaikos were keen on keeping him, but the deal fell through, resulting in AEK bursting onto the scene and pinching Klonaridis for a mere 200,000 euros. It must be said that Klonaridis flopped at AEK, barely receiving any game time under Jimenez and hit with a barrage of criticism. Taking into account Ouzounidis’ belief in Klonaridis, it’s expected that he will be given another chance with AEK.
THE EXODUS GATHERS PACE
When Lyberopoulos earned the position of AEK technical director in September 2017, he infuriated his former employers by taking veteran medical expert Christos Karvounidis, one of Greece’s top physiotherapists, to AEK. The next to jump ship was Swedish left-back Niklas Hult, signing a 2.5 year contract with AEK in the January transfer window after financial issues forced him to say goodbye to Panathinaikos. Unlike Klonaridis, the 28-year old hit the ground running at AEK, participating in eight Super League fixtures and proving to be a reliable alternative to Helder Lopes. In winning the championship, Hult claimed only the second trophy of his career and his first in Greece.
OUZOUNIDIS TAKES COACHING TEAM TO SPATA
A day before Ouzounidis put pen to paper with AEK, Lyberopoulos persuaded scout Andreas Lagonikakis to ditch Panathinaikos and become a member of the Enosis’ scouting department.
Coach Ouzounidis was unveiled as the next manager of AEK on May 25, taking the place of Manolo Jimenez after the Spaniard’s shock disagreement with club owner Dimitris Melissanidis. With solid financial backing and no money worries, Ouzounidis is expected to repeat his success at Panathinaikos and build a solid squad which is able to compete in Europe and retain the Super League crown.
Interestingly, Ouzounidis is the fifth coach in history to manage both Panathinaikos and AEK, following in the footsteps of Ferenc Puskas, Helmut Senekowitsch, Jacek Gmoch and Fernando Santos. Ouzounidis will be joined in the AEK coaching staff by Bledar Kola, Nikos Giakou and Vasilis Armatsas, assistants which also worked with him in Panathinaikos.
Could the list expand? According to rumours in the media, AEK are lining up transfer bids for Panathinaikos’ Robin Lod and Dimitris Kourbelis, however AEK officials are denying these reports. At least the journey from Koropi to Spata is a short one!