A big club in the wrong hands
by NIck Tsambouniaris
Nick Tsabouniaris from AGONAsport.com looks at the current situation at Panathinaikos and the main issues that surround the club.
Where do you begin? The transfer window is yet to begin in earnest and Panathinaikos fans have already begun to fear the direction their club is heading in and rightfully so. While it has not yet been officially announced, the imminent departure of club legend Marcus Berg will hurt more than any other player leaving.
Even during the bad times the club has experienced in recent years, Berg, his goals, and his love for the Trifili were a beacon of shining light. He was the only genuine star we have seen during the turbulent ownership of Giannis Alafouzos. This move hurts, not only due to him going about it the wrong way, but even more so that he is off to Al Ain of the UAE.
Sweden currently sit first in their FIFA World Cup qualifying group ahead of heavyweights, France and the Netherlands, and look well placed to qualify for a playoff spot at the very least. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has also retired from international football, thus paving the way for Berg to cement a starting spot at the World Cup this time next year.
Will his move to a weaker league improve his chances of earning that spot? Time will tell but the fact that Berg left Panathinaikos at this point in time highlights the issues the club faces. It can now be perceived that a move to the Middle East is more appealing to prospective targets, rather than signing for Panathinaikos. Make no doubt about it, Berg loves the club which makes you wonder if things were stable and looking rosy would he have left?
Now that he is on the wrong side of 30, you cannot blame him for wanting to secure his family’s future but it is a slap in the face to club management. Rumours have also circulated that players have not been getting paid on time which makes the club looks amateur. How can any serious club lure players if these internal problems exist?
The Prasini ended the season relatively well under Marinos Ouzounidis and in Berg, Moledo and Zeca had a core group of players to build the team around in the summer. The spine of the team looked strong and instead of pushing on, the Trifili now face the prospect of another rebuilding phase due to the lack of ambition from the top.
Moledo was the rock the team had long cried out for and now that things just started to look good he is also linked with a move away. Sebastian Leto who was clearly past his prime also offered handy value off the bench as an impact player. The club had chosen against renewing his contract.
Given the circumstances it is doubtful management can adequately replace these players. It is for this very reason fans will view the beginning of the new season in an apprehensive manner rather than counting down the minutes. Viktor Klonaridis has also decided against a permanent move to the club and much like the Berg scenario you begin to wonder why these players are keen to leave.
In addition to all of this, technical director and club hero Nikos Lymberopoulos, has also departed. As a former player, Lymberopoulos understood the fabric of the club and the weight of the shirt. To see rival Greek clubs spend bigger money would have left a sour taste in his mouth. The lack of funds and consequently the lack of ambition from the very top cannot bode well for the beginning of the new season.
As previously mentioned, the team ended the season relatively well and keeping that core group of players, along with adding another 2-3 quality signings could have signalled the beginning of a new era. Instead Panathinaikos fans now face the prospect of seeing newly promoted clubs like Apollon Smyrni spend more. This is even more of an issue considering that so many players have departed or will depart.
The blame rests solely on management as they are the ones who have reduced the stature of Panathinaikos. It was only last week when Panathinaikos was ranked as the best Greek club in the history of the UEFA Champions League. Ask any fan and they will tell you that the last participation in this tournament was far too long ago for a club this size. The problem is the wait looks like carrying on for a very long time when you consider the turmoil the club finds itself in.
Looking forward, the hope is that Alafouzos can quickly find a new technical director to finally make some signings. Additionally, Ouzounidis remaining at the club is a must. Again, as a former player he understands what the club means and is experienced in working under limited resources. A potential way forward could be turning to youth and hoping players such as Chatzigiovannis and Evaggelou go on to become first team players, but throwing too many in the deep end at once could also prove to be detrimental.