Ferreira: “The Champions League is a great opportunity”
Newly appointed PAOK head coach, Abel Ferreira, was presented to the media at a special press-conference in Thessaloniki on Wednesday.
At the start of the month, Ferreira was unveiled as the new PAOK boss, replacing Razvan Lucescu at the helm after the latter suddenly decided to leave in favour of Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia. Following the maiden training camp, the 40-year-old Portuguese coach held his first major press-conference as PAOK manager on Wednesday, sharing his initial impressions from his time with the club and the targets he has set:
First impressions of PAOK: “It’s a great honour to be here. I want to thank the administration and I will do my best to repay their faith. My goals are the same as the ones which PAOK have. I know that the fans are the soul of this club, and I want to make them proud of the team which we have. The club, and the supporters, are known worldwide.”
Initial targets for the 2019/2020 campaign: “Our first goal is qualifying for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. We understand that we have to work hard, because it is a very difficult competition. This is our first objective. Ever since I have joined the club, everyone has shown a desire to write new history. I have been very pleased with the players during these first 15 days.”
What has changed in such a short space of time, success of 2018/2019 season: “I’m certainly not a magician. I am doing my best to create a competitive team. As I have already said many times, I have huge respect for what PAOK achieved in the previous season, and I congratulate those who contributed to the success. However, I know very well that it’s even harder to stay at the top, rather than getting there in the first place. I accepted the challenge because I believe in myself. It is a great opportunity to lead PAOK to the Champions League, the competition is elite. We will be stronger.”
Potential signings for the midfield: “We always want to improve and we all know that the team requires strengthening. At the moment, we have an excellent core to this team, but that’s not enough. Some players are injured, others left. We have a desire to make this team even more competitive. I evaluated the situation, informed the management of my ideas, and I pleased to know that we are all working in the same direction. New players? I cannot give specific names. This summer, there have been a lot of changes to the team set-up, so I have to be careful and preserve the cohesion within the group.”
The tactical system: “I am trying to pick the correct formation based upon the characteristics of my players. This process has been ongoing since I received the job. I don’t have a system which I always use regardless of the team I am coaching. The system has to be the one which gets the best out of the players. At the first training camp, we played with a 4-4-2 formation sometimes, but that changed depending on whether we had the ball or not. We want to protect possession. 4-2-3-1? It’s true that I like that formation. Everything will depend on the desire which we show on the pitch. Put it this way: we can continue to live without an arm or leg, but without a strong heart, this isn’t possible.”
Message to the PAOK fans: “We feel stronger knowing that they are by our side. The fans help us believe in our capabilities even more. We know how much motivation they give us to achieve our targets. The only thing I ask of them is to continue supporting the team, even in matches which aren’t going our way. We need them to give the players something extra to turn a bad match into a good one. I want them to support the team until the end.”
Inclusion of young players: “At the moment, I can say that Ioannis Michailidis, Theocharis Tsiggaras and Antonis Gaitanidis will stay. I want us to have 21 players in the senior squad, along with goalkeepers and three academy prospects. If we make any more signings, some players will have to leave.”
SQUAD NAMED FOR NEXT TRAINING CAMP
PAOK also revealed the players which will travel to the next training camp in Horst, the Netherlands:
Alexandros Paschalakis, Nikos Melissas, Zivko Zivkovic, Enea Mihaj, Dimitris Chatziisaias, Fernando Varela, Jose Angel Crespo, Sverrir Ingi Ingason, Ioannis Michailidis, Leo Matos, Rodrigo Soares, Dimitris Giannoulis, Josip Misic, Ergys Kace, Omar El-Kaddouri, Theocharis Tsiggaras, Diego Biseswar, Pontus Wernbloom, Mauricio, Douglas Augusto, Pedro Henrique, Miroslav Stoch, Lazaros Lamprou, Vieirinha, Leo Jaba, Dimitris Pelkas, Dimitris Limnios, Chuba Akpom, Karol Swiderski, Antonis Gaitanidis.
The reigning Greek champions will fly out on Thursday morning from Makedonia Airport, before spending 10 days on Dutch territory. PAOK are due to begin their UEFA Champions League journey in the third qualifying round in August.