The transfer plan for the Big Five
AGONAsport analyses the summer transfer plan for PAOK, Olympiacos, AEK, Aris and Panathinaikos.
The summer transfer campaign has well and truly began, and with PAOK, Olympiacos, AEK and Aris set to begin their European seasons in the coming weeks, all four are busy forming their squads in time to make a realistic bid to qualify for the group stages of either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League. Meanwhile, Panathinaikos are attempting to add some experience and depth to their youthful, albeit inconsistent, squad.
Let’s take a closer look at which positions require strengthening for the five clubs in question:
This summer, PAOK have already made one important transfer, signing Rodrigo Soares to provide competition for Leo Matos on the right side of defence. The biggest challenge is now finding a suitable central midfielder. In the winter, the Dikefalos tou Vorra managed to sign Sergio Oliveira on loan as cover for the injured Mauricio and Pontus Wernbloom, but the Portuguese midfielder is returning to parent club FC Porto.
Just to make matters worse for PAOK, Ukrainian Yevhen Shakhov is due to leave this summer with his contract expiring, meaning the Greek champions are running extremely thin on the ground for midfield options. PAOK will certainly hope to sign a competent central midfielder by the time the UEFA Champions League qualifiers begin in August.
Razvan Lucescu appears satisfied with his striking pair of Chuba Akpom and Karol Swiderski, but in the event Efthymis Koulouris is sold, the club could possibly attempt to sign a forward. Extra cover for Dimitris Giannoulis (Vieirinha is out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury) is also required.
As usual, Olympiacos are the most active Greek club on the transfer front, with the Piraeus-based organisation constantly linked with new players and having already notably signed veteran French winger Mathieu Valbuena.
Another major bit of business made by Olympiacos was the permanent signing of Portuguese goalkeeper Jose Sa. In the 2018/2019 season, Sa impressed in Piraeus on loan from Porto, and he will be Olympiacos’ number one moving forward. It remains to be seen if Olympiacos opt to sign a goalkeeper to replace the departing Yury Lodygin as Sa’s back-up.
Wingers Hillal Soudani and Felipe Bruno are also on the verge of joining the Erythrolefki.
Olympiacos will now turn their attentions to strengthening the defence, keeping a hold of Kostas Fortounis and signing a striker. In the second half of the 2018/2019 season, on-loan Ahmed Hassan clicked into gear, but the Egyptian forward has returned to SC Braga. In defence, Yassine Meriah, Jagos Vukovic and Roderick Miranda were all shaky for the majority of the campaign, with Pedro Martins searching for a more reliable player to partner Pape Abou Cisse at centre-back.
The fact Ezequiel Ponce is leaving has given incoming boss Miguel Cardoso a big headache. On loan from AS Roma, the 22-year-old Argentinian striker was on fire for AEK, striking 21 goals in all tournaments in what was a poor year for the Kitrinomavri overall. Naturally, AEK were keen on keeping Ponce, but the player expressed his desire to play in a stronger league. Spartak Moscow of the Russian Premier League are favourites to sign Ponce.
Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, who was on loan at OFI for the second stage of the 2018/2019 season, might be recalled to AEK this year given Ponce’s loss. Marko Livaja remains the star AEK forward.
AEK have already replaced Rodrigo Galo at right-back by signing Paulinho on a free transfer from Chaves.
The Kitrinomavri need a lot more defence in the centre of defence. Following a disappointing season, Uros Cosic will be released by AEK, meaning that Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Marios Oikonomou and Stratos Svarnas are the only options for the centre-back position. In front of the defence, Brazilian loanee Alef has been sent back to SC Braga, so a suitable defensive midfielder has to be signed as well. Otherwise, AEK’s squad is once again simply going to be too thin.
Aris are preparing well for the UEFA Europa League run. Having finished fifth in the Super League, the Thessaloniki club have returned to the European stage, and they are making sure they’re in the best shape possible in order to qualify for the group phase.
Full-back Daniel Sundgren, a 2018 Swedish champion with AIK, has already been signed, alongside experienced Dutch midfielder Lerin Duarte. On a more negative note, promising winger Mateo Garcia is unlikely to return for the 2019/2020 season, and Aris are scouring the market for attackers. Aris’ biggest problem last season was the lack of a pure striker to convert the chances the team created.
Former Olympiacos hitman, Brown Ideye, is seeing his name linked with an Aris transfer. The 30-year-old Nigerian striker is playing his football with Tianjin Teda in China.
Sadly for Panathinaikos fans, the Athenians are not in a position to spend much money at all, which has resulted in the club being rather quiet on the transfer front so far.
However, despite the limitations, Giorgos Donis is well aware that he needs to sign a player for almost every position on the pitch. In the 2018/2019 season, Panathinaikos displayed plenty of potential, but their young players ran out of form towards the end of the campaign and more depth is required. According to reports from SDNA, Donis wants to sign a centre-back with true leadership qualities, while also chasing for a central midfielder to replace Ergys Kace and a striker to give Federico Macheda support in attack.