Ouzounidis set to meet plenty of familiar faces at AEK
Former Panathinaikos boss Marinos Ouzounidis was hastily handed the job of AEK head coach, replacing the departing Manolo Jimenez. Nevertheless, his task will be made easier by old friends.
Watch LIVE GREEK TV including full GREEK SPORTS coverage from AGONAsport.com!
On Friday, Marinos Ouzounidis was named the new AEK head coach within hours of Manolo Jimenez leaving the Greek champions, after the Spaniard’s relationship with club owner Dimitris Melissanidis turned sour in a surprising, unexpected turn of events. Taking into account the added departures of key players Jakob Johansson, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Sergio Araujo, it’s been a chastening start to the summer transfer window for AEK, but incoming manager Ouzounidis knows this roster well and is going to meet plenty of familiar faces.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the players which Ouzounidis has already worked with as a coach:
Petros Mantalos: The inspirational AEK captain, who missed a large chunk of the 2017/2018 campaign due to a serious knee injury, was a key man for Ouzounidis at Xanthi five years ago. During that particular season, Mantalos contributed with an impressive four goals and four assists, firing Xanthi to sixth place of the table and earning a future transfer to AEK. Ouzounidis is certainly well aware of Mantalos’ unique talents in midfield.
Anastasios Bakasetas: Before moving to Ouzounidis’ Panionios in January 2015, Bakasetas’ career was floundering, released by Asteras Tripolis and seemingly on a downward spiral. Ouzounidis transformed the promising forward at Panionios, as Bakasetas went on to score 11 Super League goals in the following season. Bakasetas’ success at AEK and 13 Greek senior national team caps is largely owed to the confidence which Ouzounidis inspired him with.
Viktor Klonaridis: According to the media, Belgian born Klonaridis was ready to leave AEK if Jimenez would have stayed as manager. This year, Klonaridis endured a nightmare campaign, barely receiving any game time and barraged by heavy criticism. Luckily, that should all change with Ouzounidis. The 49-year old coach managed to get the best out of Klonaridis in the 2016/2017 season at Panathinaikos, understanding how and where to use him. Klonaridis is now due to stay at AEK in order to give it another shot.
Niklas Hult: Just like Klonaridis, Swedish left-back Hult enjoyed success with Ouzounidis at Panathinaikos, earning a transfer to AEK in January 2018. Hult is in high competition with the skillful Helder Lopes on the left side of defence, but Ouzounidis is a fan of Hult’s game and will surely include him in his plans.
Giorgos Giakoumakis: Back in August 2013, Ouzounidis became the first coach to hand Giakoumakis an outing at senior level, gifting the striker a chance for Platanias in a 1:1 draw against Asteras Tripolis. Giakoumakis didn’t settle at AEK in his debut season in the Greek capital, registering only the one Super League goal and never looking comfortable. He needs help from Ouzounidis to find his scoring boots again.
Alongside those five players, Ouzounidis will once again join forces with current AEK technical director Nikos Lyberopoulos, the popular ex-Panathinaikos and Kitrinomavri forward who held the same position at the Greens in the 2016/2017 season. Lyberopoulos did his utmost best to bring Ouzounidis to AEK, giving a recommendation to the club’s board to sign him in the event that Jimenez decided to leave.
Yes, AEK’s squad has been weakened and Jimenez’s energy will be missed, but given Ouzounidis’ knowledge of the roster, the 49-year old will be expected to guide the club into the group stage of a European competition and mount a serious attempt at defending the Super League title. Sometimes, you need a little help from your friends, and Ouzounidis boasts that in abundance.