Panathinaikos looking to build on steady 2018/19 season
As the 2018/19 Super League season draws to a close in the coming weeks, Panathinaikos have set their sight on a steady summer, with many key players and staff staying, as well as having the ability to strengthen in the transfer market. AGONAsport’s Nick Tsambouniaris investigates the situation at the Trifylli.
Donis and Dabizas to Enjoy Freedom in the Transfer Window
Giorgos Donis’ job is as safe as can be. As a former player of the club, he understood exactly what it meant to represent the Trifylli. He has instilled this into his players and while performances have been relatively inconsistent in the second half of the season, it was to be expected given he blooded several young talents into the first team.
Nikos Dabizas also worked wonders in his first summer back at the club last year, operating under significant restrictions in the transfer market (being able to sign only one foreigner over 23 and having next to no budget to work with). Moving forward, this will change as the club successfully obtained its licence to participate in next season’s Championship and will not face the -6 penalty nor the aforementioned transfer penalties.
Majority shareholder, Giannis Alafouzos, also announced the budget will increase for next season. This will enable Donis and Dabizas to be more flexible in the transfer market and pursue a broader spectrum of players in a bid to add depth and strengthen the roster.
Young Talents to Stay in Green
Given the success of several youngsters in their first full season of men’s football, naturally there has been talk of big money offers being made from rival clubs in Greece and also European heavyweights. Giannis Bouzoukis, for instance, enjoyed a breakout season and has attracted interest from Portuguese giants Benfica. However, the club does not intend to sell the young midfielder or anyone else that can make a considerable impact such as club captain Dimitris Kourbelis. At 25, he is now a regular fixture in the Ethniki set up and is Panathinaikos’ pillar of strength. He can protect the back line, pick a great pass from deep positions, and has emerged as a real leader.
Uncertainty Surrounding Experienced Off-Contract Squad Members
The club will look to offload older, high wage earners who have underperformed such as Vangelis Oikonomou and Anthony Mounier. The former failed to establish himself in a young back line that was often rotated due to injuries, whereas the latter succumbed to injury in a stop-start campaign and it appears his best has passed him by.
Ergys Kace, scorer of one of the goals of the season in the Derby of Eternal Enemies against Olympiacos, will more than likely be headed back north to PAOK but nothing has been confirmed. His second loan spell at the Greens ends at the end of the season. Fellow central midfielder Theofanis Tzandaris has also struggled to break into the first team and is considering a move away in order to pursue first team football even though he has another year to run on his contract.
Ousmane Coulibaly is off contract at season’s end, and while attempts have been made to extend his stay in Athens, this appears unlikely but it will drag on for some time. Mattias Johansson is capable of slotting into the first team on a permanent basis and another youngster in Kostas Apostolakis has been given a taste in recent weeks. This could indicate he moves into the squad next season should the Mali international depart.
Question marks also surround Nikos Vergos and Omri Altman. Vergos has not impressed and is last in the pecking order, meanwhile Altman has proved he can make a difference but his chequered past in terms of injuries could come into play. It is unknown whether he has the full trust of Donis.
Strengthening the Core
Strengthening the heart of defence will be a key priority for Dabizas. He will look for an experienced leader that can make a difference and provide leadership. As a result, a centre back on a rumoured salary of 300,000 Euro will be targeted (Oikonomou’s departure will assist).
At the moment, it is thought Coulibaly will depart. Consequently, Dabizas could make a move for another right back to add depth should Donis deem Apostolakis not ready for a sustained presence in the first team.
Provided Kace returns to PAOK, the club will have 350,000 euros to play with in a bid to boost its stocks in the engine room. Another central midfielder will be a top priority, regardless of whether or not Kourbelis stays. Ideally, it will be another strong leader that arrives to partner the captain. Considering Tzandaris may leave, it is thought at least one, if not two midfielders will arrive in the summer.
A lack of depth in the wide positions was evident in the second half of the season. This led to the team becoming more predictable. As a result, a starting quality winger is thought to be pursued to play on the opposite side of Tasos Chatzigiovannis. Anthony Mounier will depart and Altman’s future is uncertain, so it is plausible more than one winger arrives.
A striker partner for Federico Macheda will also be targeted. The Italian has been solid for the most part in his debut season in Greece, but there is no proven goalscorer apart from him and as a result, the team has suffered. Someone that can take the burden off Macheda will be targeted. It will not necessarily be an out and out striker, but rather a goal scorer that can play up front or just behind the centre forward.
Possible Panathinaikos Squad for the 2019-20 Season
Goalkeepers: Sokratis Dioudis, Konstantinos Kotsaris, possible new addition.
Fullbacks: Emanuel Insua, Mattias Johansson, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Kostas Apostolakis, possible new addition.
Centre backs: Dimitris Kolovetsios, Theofanis Mavromatis, Achilleas Poungouras, Vangelis Theocharis, two possible additions.
Centre Midfielders: Dimitris Kourbelis, Christos Donis, Paschalis Staikos, two possible additions.
Attacking midfielders/wingers: Giannis Bouzoukis, Tasos Chatzigiovannis, Panos Armenakas, two possible additions.
Strikers: Federico Macheda, Argiris Kampetsis, Dimitris Emmanouilidis, Christos Sechou, possible new addition.