“Poker” Season Continues at Panathinaikos
A turbulent 2017-18 season has carried over into the summer and a fresh round of “poker” is happening at the Greens as we speak an the “dealer” is Giannis Alafouzos.
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On one hand, Pairoj Piempongsant flew into Athens and met with Alafouzos on Thursday afternoon at the SKAI offices. The pair then signed a memorandum of understanding and verbally agreed about the transfer of shares.
At approximately the same time, Dimitris Giannakopoulos met with Alexis Tsipras to give one final push to the “Athens Alive OAKA” project. This meeting reportedly went very well to the point where the Government is prepared to endorse the deal and legally shield the project from any appeals, ensuring construction is not a stop-start process. This will subsequently enable Giannakopoulos to return to Alafouzos with a new bid.
Two separate competitors cannot buy the one football club, so there will be a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’ but at the moment the race is down to two and the Thai businessman is in front. Government officials have already been contacted about Piempongsant’s move as it will involve other business activities in Greece. Furthermore, his meeting with Alafouzos also ran smoothly as he there are no legal or financial issues he is not aware of.
Piempongsant did not stay in Athens for long, the following day he flew to London to discuss the new developments with his business partners. He appears to be keen to close the deal as swiftly as possible. Perhaps it is the actions of Giannakopoulos and the subsequent threat he poses that has led to this.
The Thai is a relatively unknown to the general Greek public and as a result, his planned takeover comes with a risk. He may be the saviour the club sorely needed but no one would know what to expect, whereas with the Giannakopoulos bid, stability is more guaranteed. He comes from a Panathinaikos-loving family, knows how the Greek system operates, and has a clear plan with the aforementioned OAKA project that has the potential to fund future sources of revenue. He also recently acquired the Amateur Divisions (volleyball, handball, etc), so having the entire club under the leadership of one man makes sense.
Piempongsant has not made a fuss about the stadium issue but Votanikos appears to be his desired location. He has, however, reinforced the need for his own technical director to be hired. That man is still Avram Grant. He will have the overall supervision of the squad but not from Athens. The Israeli will make all the important decisions, particularly in the first season with all the subsequent transfer restrictions. There is a desire to be aggressive in the market and sign a player over the age of 23 to bring in some much-needed experience.
This only makes the role of Nikos Dabizas more uncertain. The former Greek international has not yet formally been unveiled as Alafouzos’ technical director, and Piempongsant will make the final call on him if his bid is successful. Grant seems to be keen on Giorgos Donis as manager so this will help. Grant would oversee things and Dabizas would work under him from Greece.
As it can be observed, the poker game is never-ending and something will eventually have to give as Panathinaikos is still suffering with news the team will start 6 points behind before a ball is kicked. Leoforos will be the team’s home ground for the 2018-19 season.