AGONAsport’s Starting XI for the 2016/17 SuperLeague Season
AGONAsport.com brings you our Starting XI for the 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague season.
The AGONAsport 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague Team of the Season may certainly lead to some debate. For instance, champions Olympiacos have only one player in our top 11 of the season. That may seem odd at first glance, but judging by the fact that the team sold its top two performers of the season in January (Luka Milivojevic and Brown Ideye) and the reality that the Piraeus club suffered a very rough second half of the campaign then perhaps it’s not quite as big a shock.
Our list takes into account a few key characteristics. Statistics were helpful in selecting our starting eleven and subsequent honorable mention picks, but a player’s importance to their club and impact on that club’s relative success were also given weight. We’ve set the side out in a 4-4-2, mostly due to the fact that two strikers (Marcus Berg and Younes Hamza) enjoyed stellar seasons and also because there was a dearth of attacking midfielder options. That isn’t to say the league doesn’t have quality players in the number ‘10’ position, but high-profile players such as Kostas Fortounis and Petros Mantalos did experience a dip in form this season compared to last.
Ultimately, whether you agree or disagree with some or all of the picks, we feel our selections comprise some of the league’s top performers this season. Without further adieu, below is the AGONAsport 2016/17 Greek SuperLeague team of the season.
Goalkeeper: Dimitris Kyriakidis (Panetolikos)
One of only two players in the Greek SuperLeague to play every minute of the season (Xanthi goalkeeper Zivko Zivkovic the other), Kyriakidis enjoyed a superb campaign despite Panetolikos’ mediocrity. The 30-year-old goalkeeper finished the season with 11 clean sheets and along the way was a model of consistency, yet also capable of the spectacular. He was more than worthy of a call-up to the Greek National Team and is currently enjoying the best spell of his career.
Goalkeepers Honorable Mention:
Huanderson (Iraklis): Was a key member of an Iraklis that bravely avoided relegation.
Alexandros Paschalakis (PAS Giannina): Enjoyed his best season as a pro which has him on the verge of a potential move abroad.
Left-Back: Marin Leovac (PAOK
An ever-present on the left for Vladan Ivic’s side, Leovac followed up a strong debut season for PAOK with an even better second one. While his statistics don’t light up the place (2 goals, 1 assist), the 28-year-old Croatian’s steady presence helped PAOK to finish second in the league. His work at club level was recognized as he was called back into the Croatian national team fold.
Left back Honorable Mention:
Niklas Hult (Panathinaikos): The Swedish back was a solid addition to the Panathinaikos backline this season helping form part of the league’s second-best defense.
Alberto de la Bella (Olympiacos): A slow start to the season for the Spaniard, but in the second half of the season was one of Olympiacos’ few bright spots.
Right-Back: Leo Matos (PAOK)
The 31-year-old was PAOK’s most consistent, if not best, performer this season. Not only did the Brazilian convince with his defensive abilities, but he also showed his knack for getting involved in the attack. Matos’ 6 goals and 2 assists are evidence of his contributions offensively as he finished joint top-scorer for PAOK (alongside Aleksandar Prijovic).
Rightback Honorable Mention:
Diogo Figueiras (Olympiacos): The Portuguese right-back did well in his first season in Greek football. Figueiras laid on five assists for his teammates in addition to his one goal on the season.
Center-Back: Spyros Risvanis (Panionios)
One of Greek football’s top young defenders, Risvanis makes the cut in our starting eleven after impressing this season for Panionios. The 23-year-old was the main man at the back for a club that went on a superb run culminating with a playoff berth. His rock-solid displays earned a move to Olympiacos next season as he now aims to make the grade with the reigning champions.
Center-Back: Rodrigo Moledo (Panathinaikos)
Marinos Ouzounidis helped change Panathinaikos for the better when he took over the club. And the Greek boss relied heavily on Moledo at the heart of the backline. The former Internacional center-back was the indisputable leader for Panathinaikos at the back. His towering displays were key in the Prasini finishing in 3rd with the league’s second best defense.
Center Back Honorable Mention:
Panagiotis Retsos (Olympiacos): While the Olympiacos youngster played a variety of positions, he is highly-rated as a center-back. The 18-year-old enjoyed a true breakout campaign that has caused some big European sides to take notice.
Jose Angel Crespo (PAOK): The veteran defender has nearly 250 career appearances spanning over a decade. This was perhaps his best season to date as the 30-year-old Crespo was reliable throughout the campaign for PAOK.
Central Midfielder: Manolis Siopis (Panionios)
The high-energy performances of Siopis were key in Panionios’ run to the playoffs. His ball-winning capabilities were top-notch and his running could only be branded as tireless. The 23-year-old put himself into the frame of the national team with his displays. Siopis is set to move to Olympiacos next season and their midfield could do with a player who topped the list of most minutes logged in the league this season.
Central Midfielder: Andre Simoes (AEK)
The Portuguese midfielder may not win points for the spectacular, but he is as consistent performer as they come. Along with Jakob Johansson, SImoes forms part of one of the best defensive midfield duos in the top-flight. Simoes was strong on the ball all season while showcasing a real knack for closing down space and intercepting passes. The stats don’t do a player of his quality justice, but yet again the 27-year-old’s play lends itself more to continuity and protection of the backline than the numbers of a more advanced position.
Center Midfielder Honorable Mention:
Masoud Shojaei (Panionios): Though he is getting on in years in football terms (32), the Iranian playmaker showcased his fine skills and his creative play helped Panionios to one of their best seasons.
Luka Milivojevic (Olympiacos): Easily a starting eleven selection had he not been sold to Crystal Palace in the Premier League in January. Milivojevic was tremendous in the first half of the season and it’s no surprise that Olympiacos fell apart after his departure.
Gojko Cimirot (PAOK): Lacks the stats, but makes the grade due to his fine defensive midfield play and his importance to the PAOK team.
Theodoros Vasilakakis (Xanthi): Had the best season of his career both in statistics (6 goals, 2 assists) and performances. His wonderful strike against Panathinaikos early on was arguably the goal of the season.
Petros Mantalos (AEK): As Mantalos went this season so did AEK. Endured a difficult start to the campaign, but seemed rejuvenated once Manolo Jimenez took over the team. Ended the season in good form with 7 goals and 4 assists.
Kostas Fortounis (Olympiacos): A seemingly disappointing campaign for one of Greece’s best midfielders. Fortounis had a career-best campaign in 2015/16, but this season struggled as Olympiacos’ form dipped after the New Year. His 6 goals and 6 assists however are still proof that he played a role in Olympiacos winning the title again.
Winger: Diego Biseswar (PAOK)
Greek football’s own ‘Flying Dutchman, Biseswar impressed with his dynamism on the pitch this season. His quickness and explosive style added an extra dimension to the PAOK attack. There were times when the former Feyenoord man blew hot and cold, however when he was on his game few were better than Biseswar this season.
Winger: Seba (Olympiacos)
The Brazilian winger did most of his damage in the first half of the season just as his club did. But, Seba was easily Olympiacos’ most consistent performer throughout the entire campaign. His ability to consistently penetrate defenses is easily viewed by his three goals and league-leading 10 assists.
Winger Honorable Mention:
Paul Jose M’Poku (Panathinaikos): A source of creativity for Panathinaikos on the flanks, the Congolese international performed well in a season-long loan deal from Chievo.
Tarik Elyounoussi (Olympiacos): While some of his better performances came in Europe, the Norwegian wide-man gained respect for his commitment and work on the right wing.
Ben Nabouhane (Panionios): On-loan from Olympiacos, Ben was impressive on the right for Panionios this season. He chipped in with 9 goals (many of which were game-winners) and 3 assists and was one of the team’s stalwarts in a memorable season.
Lucas Villafanez (Panathinaikos): Though Ouzounidis had him closer to midfield at times, the Argentine was a positive influence out wide as well.
Forward: Marcus Berg (Panathinaikos
The Swede proved himself to be the best all-around attacker in Greece. Berg has consistently scored for Panathinaikos in his four seasons with the club, but this was his best year yet. His 22 goals were not only the most in a green jersey, but it allowed him to take his place as league top scorer yet again. It’s hard to think of another player more important to his club this year or any year for that matter than Berg is to Panathinaikos.
Forward: Younes Hamza (Xanthi)
Hamza’s goals were the main reason why Xanthi battled so long for a playoff berth. 19 goals on the season was a fantastic return from the Tunisian target-man. The 31-year-old simply had a career season and was at the heart of all Xanthi did in attack. His hold-up play helped Xanthi thrive in their counter-attacking style. Strong in the air, Hamza also chipped in with three assists and was just a menace to opposing defenders.
Forward Honorable Mention:
Aleksandar Prijovic (PAOK): 6 goals in 9 matches and a strike rate of 1 goal per 1.8 shots tells the whole story for this predator in the box. Joined PAOK in January and gave them the killer instinct they needed in front of goal.
Brown Ideye (Olympiacos): His move to China cut short another fine season with Olympiacos. After the club lost his goals (13 goals in 20 matches), they struggled to find them elsewhere.
Giorgos Giakoumakis (Platanias): Led the way for Platanias’ fine season where they finished 7th. Giakoumakis’ 11 goals were a personal best and good enough for 5th in the leading scorers’ table.
Pedro Conde (PAS Giannina): 13 goals from 25 matches was a good return for the Spaniard in his first season with the club.
Michalis Manias (Asteras Tripolis): His January arrival proved a timely boost in the goals department for Asteras. Helped the club avoid the drop with his 10 goals in 18 matches.
Sergio Araujo (AEK): The on-loan Las Palmas attacker gave AEK an instant spark after coming to Greece in January. His goals and all-around play were big factors in the club turning their season around.
Coach: Vladan Milojevic (Panionios
Savvas Pantelidis deserves recognition for saving Iraklis from the drop, but Milojevic is our pick as Coach of the Season for his work with Panionios. The Serbian boss took over the club after pre-season had already began following the sacking of Marinos Ouzounidis. The 47-year-old went on to lead the Nea Smyrni club to one of their best ever seasons in the top-flight. Milojevic was able to produce a successful side that played a good brand of football, no small feat for the time frame in which he was able to do so. Before a late drop in form in the final few matches, Milojevic had Panionios within striking distance of Olympiacos showing how well Panionios performed for the bulk of the season.
Coach Honorable Mention:
Savvas Pantelidis (Iraklis): His unwavering belief that Iraklis would avoid the drop was passed on to his players. Pantelidis provided the platform and environment for his club to bravely defy the odds and avoid relegation.
Razvan Lucescu (Xanthi): Once again proved his worth as a superb tactician. Lucescu had Xanthi fighting for a playoff place until the final weeks of the season. His departure will be a big loss for Xanthi and the SuperLeague.
Giorgos Paraschos (Platanias): Paraschos kept Platanias in the playoff hunt until the end. The veteran boss coached his 500th game this season in a coaching career that is approaching a quarter century.
Vladan Ivic (PAOK): Has stamped his authority on the club and looks set for a lengthy stay at Toumba.