Panathinaikos should aim to repeat the summer of 2013
AGONAsport’s Panathinaikos contributor, Nick Tsambouniaris, looks back on the impact current technical director, Nikos Dabizas, had on the club in the summer of 2013 and how that can be used as a positive moving forward.
The 2018/19 season has come to an end and the Panathinaikos players are enjoying their holidays. On the flip side, the hard work is just beginning for Nikos Dabizas and Giorgos Donis, as the duo set out to bolster a youthful, inexperienced squad. Before the club announces any new signings, Dabizas is tasked with tying down a host of either off contract or highly sought after players.
Locking down the likes of Dimitris Kourbelis and Giannis Bouzoukis long-term is paramount to the club’s future. Both possess the quality and character to make a difference for many years to come that would enable the squad to be built around them. Dimitris Kolovetsios has already put pen to paper, Emanuel Insua and Sokratis Dioudis are coming off career-best seasons, and Tasos Chatzigiovannis has developed his game. The nucleus of a strong side is there.
The transfer window has already gotten off to a good start for the club without them even doing anything. The fact that they have obtained their license to participate in next season’s championship means the Greens will not face the penalties they did this time last year. This, in turn, will enable Dabizas with flexibility in the market - he can sign as many players over the age of 23, for instance.
The budget will still be small but that should not dishearten the fan base. The club, and more specifically Dabizas, has a proven track record in such situations. In the summer of 2013 when his hands were tied (as they are now), he managed to lure several quality players. He did this by looking abroad and targeting the right player.
Marcus Berg was a player of undoubted potential but his career was at a crossroads. He was longing to belong and be given time to succeed. Expectations were tempered but by season’s end, he endeared himself to the fans and became the best striker in the Super League. He also delivered the Trifylli with the 2013-14 Greek Cup after scoring a hat trick in a 4:1 mauling over PAOK at OAKA.
Similarly, last season Dabizas signed Italian enigma Federico Macheda. Much like Berg, his stocks were low after numerous underwhelming seasons. He brought experience to a relatively young side and also scored a respectable 11 goals as he got his career on track. Once again, expectations were tempered and he was not signed on big money. Interestingly, Dabizas opted to make Macheda his sole foreign signing last summer and it worked to great effect, after realising that was the position in which experience was sorely lacked.
Moving forward, it is felt the Greens need to sign a goal scorer (in the mould of Berg). Macheda can bring others into play and has good vision, but scoring is not his biggest attribute.
Back in the summer of 2013, a host of youngsters from abroad were signed to great effect. Nikos Karelis was only signed for 70,000 euros and the club turned him into an international footballer. Abdul Ajagun offered an element of unpredictability, as did Viktor Klonaridis, Nano was a reliable fullback, and Gordon Schildenfeld brought international experience to an inexperienced back line.
The latter especially was a brilliant signing and his parent club (Dynamo Moscow) paid a large portion of his salary. Dabizas weaved his magic in that case and should be looking to replicate that this summer.
Another top signing in that transfer window was Mehdi Abeid. The midfielder made such an impression at the club during his loan spell that he returned on a permanent basis and broke into the Algerian National Team. His name is still fondly remembered.
Ironically, Dabizas went back to his former club in the summer of 2013 to sign Abeid. Dabizas spent over five years at Tyneside and became the first ever Greek to play in the FA Cup Final with the Magpies. Fast forward to 2019 and Panathinaikos are linked with young Newcastle winger Callum Roberts. A move similar to that of Abeid six years ago would raise eyebrows but fans should give the winger a chance as history shows it can work. The Greens struggled in wide areas last season, following constant injuries to Anthony Mounier on the left side.
Signing the ‘right’ player will also be paramount. Experience is sorely needed across the board but there is no use throwing big money at foreigners that are past their best. Dabizas should predominantly target younger players again that can make a difference, but a sprinkling of decent veterans would not go astray. For instance, the team could do with a solid option at right-back following the departure of Ousmane Coulibaly after three years.
Dabizas is proven in these circumstances and fans should be patient as he works his way through a summer of rebuilding. The biggest contract he will be able to hand out is 350,000 Euro - not the crazy money seen in the upper echelons of European football but the ‘right’ player can be lured in order to make a difference. It is worth noting that the club will be operating under similar circumstances to those of Atromitos and Aris. This duo finished fourth and fifth respectively last season and they played it smart in the transfer window.