Blast from the past gives Panathinaikos a reason to hope
Nick Tsambouniaris looks back on shrewd Panathinaikos signings over the past few years amidst financial turmoil.
The off-field situation has slightly improved at Panathinaikos ahead of what is expected to be another busy summer of rebuilding at the club. This time around, the all-important licence was secured and the team will not be facing any points deductions and will not be operating under transfer restrictions.
With this said, however, it is merely a slight improvement meaning that Nikos Dabizas and Giorgos Donis will still be restricted. Not in the sense of penalties, but rather a small budget and limited resources.
The Trifylli should not be worried as they have a proven track record of luring unknown gems and moulding them into successful assets. In fact, the sales of such players undoubtedly helped last year when the financial situation was as bleak as can be. Dabizas will be hoping to repeat his past successes at the club in the same capacity as technical director. He was the one responsible for signing many quality players on the cheap.
Dabizas will once again be working with Donis in a bid to look for the right player - taking into account factors such as age, and the ‘price-quality ratio’. Last summer the duo found Italian forward Federico Macheda for instance, who went on and scored a respectable 11 goals in all competitions.
In what sure is a touch of nostalgia, here is a starting 11 of past Panathinaikos signings that have gone on to achieve bigger and better things after great stints at the club.
Goalkeeper - Odisseas Vlachodimos
The German-born Greek goalkeeper was signed on the cheap from Stuttgart in January 2016. His annual contract at the Greens was only 100,00 Euro. Stuttgart kept a 15% resale rate in the free transfer, at the time when his international future was uncertain. He swiftly took the starting spot off the more experienced Luke Steele. His brilliant composure and reaction saves between the sticks during the club’s darkest hour, led to Portuguese giants Benfica signing him for 2 million Euro. He is a starter for the Ethniki and his stocks are rapidly rising after successful appearances in the UEFA Champions League.
Right Back - Mattias Johansson
The Swedish international fullback was also signed on a free transfer from AZ Alkmaar in the summer of 2017. He is on a reported 250,000 Euro and has grown into a vital first team player over time. He struggled last season, however, this season he showcased his attacking skills with several goals and became the first choice right back.
Centre Back - Rodrigo Moledo
Quite possibly one of the club’s best signings in recent years, the Brazilian was colossal at the back and one of the best defenders in the League. Strong in the air, a natural leader and always a threat off set pieces, he was signed from Internacional in January 2016 on a free transfer (Panathinaikos only had 50% of his rights). He was on 350,000 Euro per season - ironically this is in the vicinity in which the biggest new 2019 summer signing will be earning.
Centre Back - Gordon Schildenfeld
The Croatian international centre half was signed on loan from Dynamo Moscow, with the Russian club paying the majority of his salary, in the summer of 2013. He quickly emerged as a fan favourite with an array of strong displays, and was a key member of the side that won the 2013-14 Greek Cup (Panathinaikos last trophy).
Left Back - Emanuel Insua
The Argentinean fullback was signed on a free transfer from Udinese in July 2017 and is on a reported salary of 250,000 Euro per season. He has grown into a leader and has made the left side his own in the last two seasons. His ability to cover acres of space, coupled with his strong mentality and quality attacking prowess, he remains a key player in the current set up, even though he has attracted interest from European clubs.
Defensive Midfielder - Dimitris Kourbelis
The 25 year old was signed from Asteras Tripolis in January 2017 on a 500,000 Euro transfer fee and is earning 270,000 Euro per season. The Greens struggled to pay his former club the aforementioned fee, and this almost landed them in severe danger, but did it over several installments. In fact, Asteras Tripolis still owns 25% of his rights. The tough tackling, strong-minded captain is the team’s most important player. At the heartbeat of everything, he can break down attacks and build attacks from deep. He is also versatile to play as a centre back. Now a starter for the Ethniki, the best is yet to come for the man who has significantly assisted the club in its darkest hour.
Defensive Midfielder - Carlos Zeca
Signed from Vitoria Setubal back in August 2011 on a 380,000 Euro deal, the former captain was one of the most important players and a pillar of strength during dark times. His first contract with the club was for 230,000 Euro, before he went on to win the 2013-14 Greek Cup and become captain. A true warrior in every sense, he was sold to FC Copenhagen for 2.5 million Euro in 2017 as the Trifylli began fall from grace. He is now a starter for the Ethniki after obtaining Greek citizenship.
Winger - Lucas Villafanez
Signed on a fee of 550,000 Euro from Panetolikos in January 2016, the tricky winger forged a great career, all on an annual contract of 180,000 Euro. He scored his fair share of goals (most notably a derby winner at home against Olympiacos in 2017) and also notched many assists. His creativity provided the Greens with an edge of unpredictability before being sold to Antalyaspor for 1.1 million Euro in January 2018.
Attacking Midfielder - Robin Lod
The Finnish international was signed on a 350,000 deal from Helsinki in July 2015. His contract was valued at 280,000 Euro. He enjoyed a great stint at the Greens as he took the next step in his career playing abroad. His lethal left foot is sorely missed, and he was allowed to leave on a free transfer in the summer of 2018 to Sporting Gijon. He has gone on to entrench himself in Finland’s National Team.
Striker - Nikos Karelis
Panathinaikos paid a mere 70,000 over two installments for the man nicknamed the “Greek Hulk” in the summer of 2013 from Amkar Perm. His salary was reported to be 100,000 initially. His size and strength provided the perfect foil for his partner up front and he was a key member of the 2013-14 Greek Cup, scoring in the final over PAOK. It was arguably the Greens that made him an international player for Greece. He was sold for 2.5 million Euro in January 2016 to Genk, and his career has somewhat stalled due to injuries. The forward is currently at PAOK.
Striker - Marcus Berg
The Swedish international striker has been Panathinaikos’ best signing in the transfer market in the last decade. Signed on a free transfer from Hamburg in August 2013, his career was at a crossroads. A talented player, longing for a club to connect with and belong to after a couple of failed stints, he found that at the Greens on an initial contract of 450,000 Euro. A fan favourite and a world class goal scorer, he found a home in Athens and was adored by the fans. He scored goals for fun, and several hat tricks along the way - most notably in the 2013-14 Greek Cup final win over PAOK. Good in the air, lethal inside the box, a strong shot from distance, he is still sorely missed. He left on sour terms for Al Ain in the summer of 2017 as the club began to struggle financially and has gone to to represent Sweden at a FIFA World Cup.
The club also managed to lure quality players across all positions, in line with the ‘price-quality ratio’. Paul-Jose M’Poku, Luke Steele, Viktor Klonaridis, Mladen Petric, Sokratis Dioudis, Ousmane Coulibaly, Luciano, Niklas Hult, Nano Gonzalez, Mehdi Abeid, Danijel Pranjic and Federico Macheda have all gone on to be key contributors as the club has struggled off the pitch.