AGONA Profile: Manolo Jimenez, AEK’s Spanish Saviour
This week, Manolo Jimenez joined AEK for the third time, taking the reins after Marinos Ouzounidis departed his role. The AGONA Profile takes a closer look at his career to date.
PROMISING PLAYING CAREER IN SEVILLE
Born in Arahal, a province of Seville, the young Jimenez immediately joined Sevilla, progressing through the academy to eventually play for the senior team. Initially, Jimenez spent three years with Sevilla’s youth and reserve sides, before making his debut with the first team in 1984. The Spaniard went on to make an impressive 354 appearances with Sevilla, playing 18,960 minutes of football in La Liga alongside 15 caps for the Spanish national team.
Having stayed with Sevilla for the vast majority of his playing days, Jimenez left the club on a free transfer in 1997, joining Jaen in the second division where he would stay until June 1998. Upon his departure from Jaen, Jimenez decided to call it a day and hang up his football boots once and for all.
EARLY COACHING DAYS
Eager to stay in his native Seville region, Jimenez started out on the coaching path by taking charge of Sevilla Atletico (Sevilla B). Jimenez managed Sevilla’s reserves for seven years between 2000 and 2007, achieving promotion in his final season with the team. However, when Juande Ramos left Sevilla’s senior team in October 2007, Jimenez gained his first major break as a manager and was promoted to first team head coach.
IN CHARGE OF HIS BOYHOOD CLUB
Jimenez managed 134 Sevilla matches from October 2007 to March 2010, winning 71, drawing 23, losing 40 and picking up a decent points-per-game average of 1.76. His best La Liga finish with Sevilla was third in the 2008/2009 season, taking the club back to the UEFA Champions League in the process.
Things appeared to be going swimmingly, but when Jimenez’s Sevilla hit a horrible patch of form in spring 2010, it was the coach who paid the price. Jimenez was promptly sacked on March 23.
THE AEK JOURNEY BEGINS
As fate would have it, Jimenez’s next port of call was Greece, becoming AEK Athens head coach in October 2010 for his first taste of working abroad. In just under a year in the Enosis hotseat, the Spanish manager tasted Greek Cup glory after beating Atromitos 3:0 in the final and helped AEK to qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
On October 5, 2011, Jimenez and AEK came to an agreement which saw the Spaniard lose his job and move to Spain with Real Zaragoza. He then managed Al Rayyan in Qatar.
RETURN TO AEK
Jimenez’s grand return to AEK took place on January 19, 2017. To be honest, many were doubtful whether Jimenez could turn the club’s fortunes around after not giving the best impression with Real Zaragoza and Al Rayyan, but the decision to re-sign the Spaniard was the best Dimitris Melissanidis could have made. When Jimenez joined, AEK were in terrible shape and had only won three of the past 14 matches with previous manager Jose Morais, but Jimenez heroically took the Kitrinomavri to the Greek Cup final and embarked on a stunning playoff run.
AEK were in fourth place of the Super League regular season, but the Enosis performed superbly in the playoffs, beating PAOK, Panathinaikos and Panionios to take second spot in the championship and seal a golden Champions League berth.
2017/2018 SEASON SUCCESS
The 2017/2018 campaign will never be forgotten by the AEK faithful. In the summer, it started with AEK losing to CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League, but when dropping down to the Europa League, form dramatically picked up.
In the end, the Kitrinomavri exited Europe in the Last 32 of the Europa League stage, while winning the Super League to end the club’s 24-year wait to become champions of Greece again. AEK could have completed the double, but in the Greek Cup final, the team fell 0:2 to a motivated, revenge-hungry PAOK side.
LAS PALMAS FAILURE
It was generally assumed Jimenez would stay on at AEK, but after the 2017/2018 season ended, he took the decision to move back to his native Spain with Las Palmas. Incidentally, popular Argentinian forward Sergio Araujo transferred to the La Liga 2 outfit alongside Jimenez, with the Spanish club holding ambitious targets of a return to the top division.
Sadly for Jimenez, it didn’t go to plan at Las Palmas, as he was fired in November following a thoroughly disappointing start to the campaign.
THIRD SPELL IN ATHENS
Two days after drawing 1:1 with PAOK in the Super League, Marinos Ouzounidis made the call to leave AEK, submitting his resignation to the management. Eager to salvage an underwhelming season, AEK didn’t hang around for a replacement, giving Jimenez a call and agreeing a 1.5 year contract with the Spaniard.
Jimenez’s return has given the atmosphere within the AEK camp a well-needed lift. This year, one of AEK’s main issues has been the lack of victories in major derbies, with Ouzounidis failing to beat either PAOK, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos in four league games.
55-year-old Jimenez is an expert in that department. In his second term as AEK boss, Jimenez competed in a combined total of 13 derbies against Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and PAOK, registering 10 wins, one draw and two defeats. His unique knowhow of the decisive games is what AEK have severely missed.
POSSIBILITY OF TAKING AEK TO AGIA SOPHIA
His deal is due to expire after the 2019/2020 season finishes, but in the event that Jimenez stays on, he will take AEK home to the newly constructed Agia Sophia Stadium in Nea Filadelfeia. Considering his love for AEK, Athens and Greece, there is a strong possibility of that happening, and given what he has already achieved with the Kitrinomavri, surely he deserves that honour.