Midfield general Simoes in Athens for the long haul
Ever since joining AEK in 2015, Portuguese midfielder Andre Simoes has been a key figure for the Kitrinomavri, and he will continue leading the midfield charge for another few years after penning a new 3+1 contract. In connection with the news, AGONAsport takes a look at his best moments in Athens.
It’s hard to imagine this AEK side without Simoes. In the middle of midfield, Simoes has been a rock for the Athenians, calmly controlling games with his excellent passing and ability to protect the defence. However, after a Super League loss at Panetolikos in November, it appeared he was certain to move through the exit door.
The 29-year-old found himself ostracized from the team by owner Dimitris Melissanidis and was accused of refusing to renew his expiring contract. As a result, the Portuguese national was forced to sit on the sidelines, unable to help his team until eventually signing a new deal on February 5.
Simoes’ AEK journey began in 2015. When arriving in Athens in July of that year from Moreirense, no one really knew who he was, and AEK had only just earned promotion to the Super League after a crippling financial crisis. Nevertheless, Simoes quickly made an impression on the Greek game, making 26 appearances in the domestic championship with AEK finishing in a respectable third place of the regular season. His assured presence in the middle of the park provided the vital link between defence and attack, with Simoes displaying adept tactical awareness.
In three years in the Greek capital, Simoes participated in one of the finest periods in AEK’s history, helping the club win the 2015/2016 Greek Cup, the 2017/2018 Super League, qualify for the Last 32 of the UEFA Europa League and make the coveted group stage of the UEFA Champions League. After being cast adrift from the AEK squad in controversial circumstances, Simoes refused to display bitter feelings towards Melissanidis, thanking the Enosis supremo for giving him a chance in Greece: “ Given recent developments, it seems I have no choice but to go, but I have unlimited respect for AEK and the club president. He brought me to AEK from a small club in Portugal and he always helped me.”
Simoes then expressed his happiness at remaining an AEK player when extending his contract with the Enosis: “Yes, maybe I could have found a supposedly better option for the future, but my relationship with AEK is special and it’s not certain that I could have found something better. Manolo Jimenez’s return is important because it will give the fans hope. Do I regret not signing a new contract earlier? It was strange not playing, but we managed to find a solution and I will help the team achieve its goals.”
Let’s take a look at some of his best moments so far in an AEK jersey:
October 12, 2015. AEK - Levadiakos 4:0, Super League
Simoes’ first goal arrived in a large 4:0 thrashing of Levadiakos. With 20 minutes on the clock, Simoes found the back of the net, grabbing the opening goal to send AEK on their way to a comfortable win. Interestingly, after that marker, Simoes would have to wait until the current season to score again in the Super League, netting in the 1:2 loss to Panetolikos.
May 17, 2016. AEK - Olympiacos - 2:1, Greek Cup final
In his first season with the Kitrinomavri, Simoes tasted Greek Cup glory with a tense 2:1 triumph over bitter rivals Olympiacos inside an empty OAKA. Throughout the entire game, Simoes played at his best, and he was involved in the move which saw Petros Mantalos open the scoring with a clever header. Although he did win the 2013/2014 Portuguese Second Division, this can be classed as Simoes’ first major trophy of his career.
August 24, 2017. AEK - Club Brugge - 3:0, UEFA Europa League playoffs
A night which he will never forget. In the first leg of the Europa League playoffs, AEK drew 0:0 at Club Brugge, however the Greeks were dominant at home with a 3:0 victory to qualify for the group phase. Simoes was the star player, tallying two goals at the OAKA. On 39 minutes, Simoes reacted quickest to head the loose ball into the net, before he doubled his money in the closing stages from point blank range.
March 11, 2018. PAOK - AEK - 0:3 (0:0), Super League
In the Super League title decider, PAOK hosted AEK at a packed Toumba Stadium, but the game was halted in the 90th minute after a disallowed offside goal for the hosts resulted in chaos erupting. During the entire game, Simoes was a rock in midfield, preventing PAOK from sustaining any prolonged periods of pressure and helping AEK cause danger on the counterattacks. A brilliant showing from the midfielder in the season’s biggest match.
October 23, 2018. AEK - Bayern Munich - 0:2, UEFA Champions League group stage
Admittedly, Simoes endured a pretty poor first half to the 2018/2019 season, but he was strong in the Champions Lea gue defeat to Bayern Munich in Athens. AEK did go down 0:2, but Simoes’ assured showing inspired midfield partner Konstantinos Galanopoulos to play so well against the German giants.