The Weight Of The Panathinaikos #9 Shirt

The Weight Of The Panathinaikos #9 Shirt
 

AGONAsport’s Nick Tsambouniaris looks back at the legends that wore the #9 jersey for Panathinaikos and the big shoes that need to be filled by the club’s current #9, Andres Chavez.

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After returning from a lengthy layoff due to injury, striker Andres Chavez will seek to become his own player and forge his own legacy in the famous green jersey. However the weight of the number 9 shirt cannot be underestimated, solely due to the fact that some of the players that have worn it over the years are Panathinaikos legends. Whoever wears it has big shoes to fill. Below is a list of the number 9’s since 2000.
 
Krzysztof Warzycha

Warzycha deserves to come into calculations for conversations relating to the best ever Panathinaikos player. The long-serving striker became was a fan favourite as true icon of the club. His time at Panathinaikos started in 1989 and concluded in 2004, attaining Greek citizenship along the way! During his time at the club he won 5 Greek championships, 5 Greek Cups, and was the highest scorer in the league on 3 occasions.

Perhaps his finest moment came on the 3rd of April, 1996, when he scored a late winner to give Panathinaikos a 1-0 win in the first leg of the 1995-96 UEFA Champions League semi final away to Ajax. It was also Ajax’s first home defeat in 4 years.
His career Green career ended with a whopping 244 goals in 403 league games and 24 goals in 63 European matches. They say strikers are judged on their goals, well Warzycha can definitely claim to be among the greats in the category of former striker Antonis Antoniadis.
 
Ezequiel Gonzalez

The Argentine affectionately known as “Equi” was next in line to wear the famous shirt in 2004. He may have had a short fuse and a difficult player to manage at times but his passion and contribution cannot be doubted. He only wore the #9 shirt for a limited time but remained at the Trifili until 2008, wearing #10 and later #40 becoming a fan favourite along the way.

He played a vital role in the club securing the league-cup double in 2004, however his greatest moment came in a UEFA Champions League match against Arsenal at Leoforos when his great technique was on show for all to see. His volley from about 35 metres will live long in the memory.
 
Emmanuel Olisadebe

The Nigerian-born Polish international was a Panathinaikos player from 2001-2005 and wore the #9 for 1 season. He was the player that delivered the league title in the 2003-04 season and always had a knack of rising to the occasion. This was evident in his great performances in European games against Arsenal, Schalke and Porto. A serious knee injury curtailed his main asset – his speed and he never fully recovered, moving to Portsmouth in 2006.
 
Sebastian Romero

Whilst not a striker, the winger with the unmissable long hair, was a Panathinaikos player from 2006-2008. His Green career never really took off as hoped and as a result he returned to his native Argentina.
 
Djibril Cisse

Well, well, well, where do you start here? The firebrand French international was well-known due to his time at Liverpool and signed with Panathinaikos on the 25th of June, 2009, from Marseille, on the back of a loan stint at Sunderland. In his first season in Greece, he scored an incredible 23 goals in 28 games, more than vindicating the 8 million Euro transfer fee paid by the club. He became a leader and was an integral part of the team that captured the league-cup double in the 2009-10 season. His late winner at OAKA against Roma in the UEFA Europa League to give the Greens a stunning come-from-behind victory, 3-2, will never be forgotten. Likewise his performance in the away leg, which also ended in a 2-3 away win.

Cisse further endeared himself to the fans when he scored 2 goals against arch-rivals Olympiakos on the 30th of October, 2010 in a 2-1 home win. Once again his speed, skill and deadly finishing stole the show. He then went on to famously say “I am not only a player of Panathinaikos, but I am also a fan”. He honoured Gate 13 when he scored his 50th goal by celebrating with the fans and taking off the famous #9 shirt to reveal a Gate13-inspired t-shirt. He also has the Trifili tattooed on him. It is now evident as to why he is still adored, particularly by the younger generation of fans.
Cisse had a dispute with Vangelis Marinakis after an away derby in the 2010-11 season and stated that he would leave Greece due to being “disgusted by what is happening in Greek football”, referring to the questionable refereeing. However, he left in July 2011 and signed with Lazio for 5.8 million Euro as the Greens faced financial problems. The fact that he is still playing today at 36 illustrates his passion for the game and never-say-die attitude as he has faced his fair share of injuries.

Jose Verdu Nicolas

The Spanish striker known as “Toche” was signed as Cisse’s replacement but it was always unrealistic to expect him to be as effective as the fiery Frenchman, mostly due to the off field problems the club faced. In the 2 year period in which he wore the #9, he scored a respectable 20 goals in 46 games. His best moment was his late equaliser in a UEFA Europa League match against Tottenham at OAKA to give the Greens an unlikely 1-1 draw. He departed in November 2013.
 
Marcus Berg

On the 8th of July, 2013, the Swedish international signed a 4 year deal with Panathinaikos. He hit the ground running scoring in his debut against Panetolikos, and also in the first derby of the season against PAOK. He wrote his name in the history books by putting in a man of the match performance in an away derby on the 2nd of March, 2014, by scoring a goal and getting an assist on the way to a 0-3 demolition (the biggest away win ever in the Derby of the Eternal Enemies). A week later he was at it again, scoring a hat trick in a 4-1 win over Aris. His finest moment in the #9 shirt was possibly his performance in the 2013-14 Greek Cup final. On that day he tore PAOK to shreds, scoring another hat trick in a 4-1 win. This was the first trophy the Greens had won since the 2009-10 season. It was also unfortunately the only silverware Berg won during his time at Panathinaikos.

He continued scoring for fun in Greece and grabbed his 50th goal for the club in all competitions on 7th of November, 2015. On the 17th of April, 2016, he scored 5 goals against Panthrakikos. His highlight of the 2016-17 season came in a 1-0 home derby win over Olympiakos, when he scored a well-taken volley. He also scored twice in a hotly contested away derby against AEK, in which the Greens won 2-3.

On the 28th of June, 2017, Berg signed with Al Ain under controversial circumstances which soured his time at the club, by forcing a move himself. However, his contribution cannot be questioned. The fact that he scored 95 goals and grabbed 28 assists in 151 games says it all. Berg will be remembered as the complete striker, scoring vital goals with his left and right foot, his head, lobs, volleys, and from tight angles. He has handed the #9 shirt to Andres Chavez known as “Comadante”.
 

 
by Nick Tsambouniaris
Image Source: sdna.gr
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