Friday Frappé: Koulouris for Striker?
In this week’s edition of the Friday Frappé, AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris discusses why PAOK might be making a big mistake by not recalling Efthimis Kolouris from his loan at Atromitos…
With the dust settled on Aleksandar Prijovic’s time at PAOK, the search for a replacement for the 28-year-old has been escalated with time ticking down on the January transfer window.
Despite a late push from PAOK owner, Ivan Savvidis, to persuade Prijovic to stay in Thessaloniki until the end of the season, the Serbian talisman couldn’t refuse the big-money offer from Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad.
While a nine-goal first half to the season from Prijovic has PAOK’s push to end a 34-year title drought in good shape, there’s no doubt that Prijovic’s departure has the club scrambling to find a replacement.
Even with an eight-point lead over second-place Olympiacos atop the Super League standings, the departure of PAOK’s most efficient scorer over the last two seasons with 15 rounds of action remaining might leave the door open for some doubts whether or not the Super League’s best team will remain that at season’s end.
Of course, it would take a brave bettor to bet against PAOK in the second half of the season as the club’s form in the Super League has been more than impressive through 15 matchdays.
Perhaps last weekend’s defeat of Asteras Tripolis is a sign of what is to come post-Prijovic. Despite a lengthy Christmas break, PAOK’s league-best attack didn’t skip a beat en route to a 3-0 win in Tripoli – though there was a little help sent PAOK’s way courtesy of Konstantinos Triantafyllopoulos’ misfortune on the defensive end.
However, one can argue that PAOK are in desperate need of a striker who will not only fill the void left by Prijovic’s departure but also keep up with the production the Serbian offered during his two-year tenure at Toumba.
In particular, PAOK lost a quarter of their goals scored by selling Prijovic after the Serbian talisman notched nine goals in 13 league appearances this season. Out of those nine goals, five of them came in games when no other PAOK player managed to find the back of the net; effectively winning PAOK three games (1-0 vs. Asteras Tripolis, 2-0 vs. AEK, 1-2 vs. Aris).
Add to the fact that Prijovic also scored in two further one-goal wins (2-1 vs. Larissa, 1-2 vs. Levadiakos) and it’s easy to see that PAOK’s edge in key clashes was certainly Prijovic.
It doesn’t take much to deduce that PAOK need somebody to fill those shoes for at least the remainder of the season, and of course the club are rumoured to make a move before the transfer window expires. Two of the biggest names linked to PAOK don’t appear to be coming to Thessaloniki this winter with speculation surrounding Marcus Berg and Leo Bonatini seemingly nothing more than just speculation at this point. Now it seems the club are keen on Polish striker Karol Swiderski, who is currently having a career-year in the Polish Ekstraklasa with Jagiellonia Bialystok.
While PAOK seem to have a knack of finding a gem in the international transfer market, there’s no doubting that the answer to PAOK’s current problems currently plies his trades in Greece already. As impressive as Prijovic’s numbers were prior to his departure, one man that has an even more impressive track record this season in Efthimis Koulouris. The Atromitos striker currently leads the Super League goal scoring race with 11 goals scored in 14 games and has quickly proven he has what it takes to fill the striker role in Greece.
So, it was a bit of a surprise, especially considering PAOK’s current predicament, that Koulouris admitted in a recent interview that he has not received a call from PAOK following Prijovic’s departure from the club.
Koulouris is, of course, on loan at Atromitos from his parent club PAOK and while it is not common for loans to be terminated early by the parent club, it wouldn’t be the first time a parent club has recalled a player early from their loan spell.
While PAOK’s case can be considered extraordinary, it seems like the club’s best answer to fill Prijovic’s absence is in fact Koulouris and not necessarily just for the fact that club are leading the title race.
Koulouris is slated to return to PAOK at the end of the season, and based on current form it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Greek striker leads the PAOK attack heading into next season – particularly with Prijovic, his biggest rival in the striker unit now having moved on.
Although PAOK’s most urgent need relates to this season, it’s also no secret that PAOK are desperate to find out if Koulouris can be a long-term solution for the club moving forward. So when would be a better time to find out if Koulouris can get the job done? Seems as if fans will be made to wait and see.