AEK keeping core intact and strengthening squad even further
Boasting the status of Greek champions, AEK Athens are setting the plans out for the summer, as the club aim to keep the core of their successful squad together.
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When teams enjoy fantastic, trophy winning seasons, there’s always the danger of so-called larger clubs seizing the moment and pinching the best players. Wary of the risk attached to the Super League triumph, AEK owner Dimitris Melissanidis is busy trying to quickly tie his star men down with new contracts, especially after it was revealed that Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Jakob Johansson and Sergio Araujo are all leaving the newly crowned champions of Greece.
Marko Livaja, the talented Croatian who enjoyed a superb campaign with head coach Manolo Jimenez, is to stay with AEK after the Enosis transferred 1.8 million euros to Spain’s Las Palmas in order to activate his release clause. Livaja was a key member of AEK’s title winning roster, scoring eight goals and dishing out five assists during his loan spell from Las Palmas. Recently, it was reported that Livaja’s three-year contract with AEK will now begin and he’ll earn 700,000 euros every 12 months.
Promising goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas, popular Bosnian Ognjen Vranjes and solid midfielder Andre Simoes are all to be offered new contracts by Melissanidis. Next year, AEK aim to fully make Barkas the team’s number one stopper, seeing huge potential in the tall 23-year old. Defender Vranjes appeared to be on his way out of AEK in the winter, but after being persuaded to stay, he looks set to pen a new deal with the Kitrinomavri. After the departure of Johansson, AEK cannot afford to lose any more players in the middle of the park and Simoes is settled in the Greek capital.
AEK are keen on keeping Panagiotis Kone, but there is a sticking point. In the 2017/2018 season, he played on loan from Udinese, however it’s not known whether the Italian outfit will release the Greek international from his contract. According to the media, Kone wants to leave Italy and remain an AEK player for the upcoming campaign.
With the goal of performing well in both the Super League and UEFA Champions League next season, AEK understand that depth has to be added to Jimenez’s roster. Araujo’s departure leaves a huge hole in the club’s strike force, but the Athenian giants signed Apollon Smyrnis hitman Christos Almpanis. The 23-year old impressed with minnows Apollon this year scoring eight goals in 29 appearances, including the winner against Olympiacos which kept the club in the Super League.
Hugo Cuypers, the young Belgian forward, is set to officially join AEK. Despite playing in the Football League with Ergotelis, Cuypers grabbed the headlines with brilliant showings in the second tier of Greek football, registering 22 goals in just 28 championship matches. The transfer isn’t yet over the line, but after leaving Cuypers out of the squad for the game against Trikala, Ergotelis released this following statement on their official website: “Ergotelis want to protect the player (Cuypers) and clear up the transfer issue, which is expected to be completed in the coming days.” Only 21 years of age, Cuypers has demonstrated a ruthless goalscoring ability and will be expected to hit the ground running at AEK.
Moving forward in the summer, AEK are aiming on signing two wingers, a defensive midfielder and a striker, although having secured the signatures of Almpanis and Cuypers, it’s not certain if the Enosis will strengthen that department any further.