Summer signings power AEK to new heights
AEK are enjoying a superb campaign, currently in second place of the Super League and in the Europa League Last 32. Manolo Jimenez’s men have shown their potential during the first half of the season, with some of the Spaniard’s summer signings having a huge impact on the Athenian giants.
Eager to increase squad depth in the summer, AEK made a number of clever transfers, in particular signing talented forwards Marko Livaja and Viktor Klonaridis. Nevertheless, AEK’s biggest move of all was bringing back popular Argentine Sergio Araujo, who only left the team after last season became his loan from Spanish club Las Palmas had expired. While Klonaridis has struggled, Livaja and Araujo have formed a productive partnership together, both igniting AEK’s improving firepower. With a solid defence behind them, they helped AEK reach the Europa League Last 32 and take second place in the Super League. Had AEK not drawn against lowly Apollon Smyrnis in December, the club would have been first heading into 2018.
Below, we take a look at how all of AEK’s players signed in the off-season have fared in Athens so far.
THE INSTANT HITS
Marko Livaja: Well, he wasn’t quite an instant hit. The 24-year old Croatian showed poor discipline and commitment in his debut AEK appearances, including two dire displays during the Champions League qualifying defeats to CSKA Moscow. However, to many people’s surprise, Livaja has all of a sudden become a cult figure for the Kitrinomavri’s faithful. While scoring a number of important goals, especially that dramatic late equaliser in the derby against Panathinaikos, Livaja has become a true team player. Finally, after many wasted years, he is making use of his wonderful talent. Blessed with excellent technical ability, he is a real threat for any opposition defence when he’s in the mood. Also tracks back in defence when required.
Helder Lopes: The left-back was signed as a free-agent. In attack, Lopes offers another option for AEK, being able to string neat passing moves together with his teammates. Makes superb runs on the flank, and is one of the first names on Jimenez’s team sheet. An irreplaceable figure.
Uros Cosic: The Serbian central defender joined from Empoli, going on to put in solid performances for AEK. He looked shaky when playing in the Champions League against CSKA in August, but he has improved with time. Lost his place in the side due to injury, however Cosic has displayed that he’s capable of being a reliable centre-back for AEK.
Panagiotis Tsintotas: Recently replacing Giannis Anestis between the pipes, goalkeeper Panagiotis Tsintotas has proven to be an astute signing by AEK. A solid netminder with top quality distribution, Tsintotas is a man for the future. Kept goal for the team’s crucial Europa League draw with Austria Vienna.
THE QUESTION MARKS
Sergio Araujo: Having played for AEK last season, Araujo can’t really be classed as a new signing. Still, he did miss the first part of the campaign while his second loan from Las Palmas was finalised. Boasts great chemistry with Marko Livaja and still has that same infectious passion, but his finishing seriously lets him down. Generally requires two or three chances to eventually find the net, something which can hamper AEK in big matches.
Giorgios Giakoumakis: Only 23, Giakoumakis is considered one of Greece’s most promising strikers. His AEK career hasn’t got off to a flying start, scoring just the one goal in the Greek Cup. It’s clear that Giakoumakis has talent, but Jimenez only uses him as a late substitute. In his defence, Giakoumakis is coming off the back of an injury which kept him on the sidelines for a while.
Panagiotis Kone: The former Greek international is on loan at AEK until the end of this season. Well loved among AEK fans, Kone adds much needed experience to the midfield. Took a while to get going, but scored a stunning goal against AOK Kerkyra in the Super League. Will probably mostly be used as an impact substitute.
THE REAL MISSES
Arnor Ingvi Traustason: Someone who certainly didn’t get on with Manolo Jimenez. Traustason was shown the door in December, moving on to sign with Sweden’s Malmo. Simply could not settle in Athens at all.
Viktor Klonaridis: He’s shown fleeting glimpses of what he can do, but Klonaridis has looked uncomfortable at AEK. Jimenez does believe in Klonaridis though, and he has to improve in the new year.