Melissanidis lives up to promises
When languishing in the Gamma Ethniki in 2013, AEK could only dream of winning the Super League crown, but the Kitrinomavri became champions of Greece a mere five years later. AGONAsport takes a look at owner Dimitris Melissanidis’ achievements with the Athenians.
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Let’s rewind to July 10, 2013. Following crippling financial issues, the Enosis had decided to strip themselves of professional status, self-relegating to the murky depths of the Gamma Ethniki. Starting from scratch, businessman Dimitris Melissanidis became AEK’s administrative leader, setting out these goals at his maiden press-conference:
AEK must return to the Super League with a solid foundation and structure which will allow the club to claim titles.
The organisation needs to be recognised as a big team again and be a leader for Greek football.
To lay down the foundations for the new stadium in Nea Filadelfeia.
Amazingly, in just a five-year period, Melissanidis has achieved everything which he promised. The Kitrinomavri earned Greek Cup glory in 2016, won the 2017/2018 Super League, qualified for the UEFA Europa League Last 32 and started constructing their Agia Sophia Stadium in the Nea Filadelfeia region. In addition, AEK will soon have an ultra-modern training complex in Spata worth five million euros, with the facilities set to rival Europe’s best.
Melissanidis’ pure determination to bring AEK back to the top deserves plenty of credit. Understanding the club’s origins, the 67-year old installed a winning mentality, gradually steering AEK to the cream of the crop. To be honest, Melissanidis probably didn’t expect to win the Super League so quickly, but AEK cleverly managed to avoid getting involved in headline scandals unlike arch-rivals Olympiacos and PAOK.
A homegrown squad centered around leading Greek players Vasilis Barkas, Michalis Bakakis and Petros Mantalos is proving key to success. However, if there’s one aspect which still requires more stability, it’s the coaching department. Since Melissanidis took over AEK in 2013, eight managers have been at the helm: Traianos Dellas, Stelios Manolas, Gus Poyet, Nikos Panagiotaras, Temur Ketsbaia, Jose Morais, Manolo Jimenez and recently appointed Marinos Ouzounidis.
Now, Melissanidis has the tough task of continuing AEK’s development, something which starts with the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds in August. Having lost key figures such as Sergio Araujo, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Ognjen Vranjes, the roster has been severely weakened, but with AEK set to move into the Agia Sophia Stadium in 2020, expectations are higher than ever before. The next five years of Melissanidis’ reign promise to be even more fascinating.