Piempongsant’s Panathinaikos Vision
AGONAsport’s Nick Tsambouniaris talks about Pairoj Piempongsant’s plans for Panathinaikos and the “next day” at the club once the takeover is complete.
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The Next Day at Panathinaikos
Pairoj Piempongsant and Pan Asia are on the final stretch of acquiring fallen giants Panathinaikos from Giannis Alafouzos. The Thai businessman is confident of sealing the deal within the next 10-15 days as the shared will be transferred by then. The meetings with several key Panathinaikos figures such as Alafouzos, Nikos Dabizas and Giorgos Donis went very well. The takeover can practically be considered a certainty.
Alafouzos is satisfied with Piempongsant’s contacts in the football world and is optimistic about the next chapter in the club’s illustrious history. Donis has not yet been officially unveiled as the new manager but he has already begun work following the meeting with Piempongsant. He has been informed that this season he is only allowed to make one “bam” signing and then he is restricted to looking at “kids” due to the penalty the club must serve for failing to obtain a licence. However, as of next season the limits will be lifted and he will have greater freedom to put his stamp on the team.
The aim will be to recruit an experienced player that can make a significant difference to the team, blended in with good, young prospects - either from the club’s Academy or new signings (an infinite amount of Greeks under 23 can be signed). As a result, next season will be all about steadying the ship to enable the Trifylli to return to its rightful place being a force in Greece and pushing to return to European action after that. This is when significant improvements will be made to the squad.
The whole situation is now becoming clearer by the day - Donis will be manager, Dabizas will act as technical director (Avram Grant will be the chief technical director), and together they will put together a youthful team that can remain competitive until the transfer ban is lifted. Attention will now invariably turn to retaining some of the team’s higher profile players such as Robin Lod and Ousmane Coulibaly, in the case of the former it will be much harder. Following this, appointments need to be made in the club’s administration. In this instance, people who know the club and Greek football well would be required, along with the trusted associates of Piempongsant.
The plan is to build a team from the ground up and be playing in Europe by three years time. Donis is the best man for the job, all things considered. As a former player and someone who loves the club it will be interesting to see how he has the team playing, even more so with his son Christos Donis shaping up to be a more senior figure in a young squad.
The incoming change in ownership will also bring about a substantial increase in the club’s budget, especially the miniscule amounts witnessed in recent season’s under Alafouzos. The budget is expected to be doubled from the 3 million Euro laid out by Alafouzos to 6 million Euro.
The Greens are expected to target young Greek talents who are tipped for bright futures. Rumour has it Donis and Dabizas will look to Tasos Douvikas of Asteras Tripolis to fill the void of not having an out-and-out striker that knows how to find the back of the net. In addition to this, Enea Mihaj of Panetolikos will be targeted to add steel and composure to a backline that chopped and changed last season.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly payments to players will be consistent and on-time and the debt issue will be resolved. Piempongsant will look to be prudent in his approach and not waste money on players deemed not good enough. This in turn will enable Dabizas to bolster the playing roster later down the track with more flexibility in the market and not have to consult players about taking a pay cut to remain.
Reducing/Removing the European Ban
In what will come as great news to the fans, Piempongsant will examine the possibilities of lowering the punishment given by UEFA due to the failed Alafouzos regime. The punishment involves a ban from participating in any European competition for the first time the Greens qualify out of the next three seasons.
Piempongsant even wants to totally eliminate the penalty. He claims it is possible due to the change in ownership and all the existing debts will be settled when the shares are transferred. UEFA is primarily concerned about the long-term sustainability of clubs in such competitions, not the actual punishment itself, so this matter is still open for debate.
Patience is Required by the Players
During the past two transfer windows, the team has been stripped of its best players such as Marcus Berg, Zeca, Rodrigo Moledo and Lucas Villafanez to name a few. Consequently, Dabizas and Donis have informed Piempongsant of the need to retain the more experienced players that are left such as Anthony Mounier, Mattias Johansson, Ousmane Coulibaly, Robin Lod, Emanuel Insua and Guillermo Molins, along with bringing PAOK duo Giannis Mystakidis and Ergys Kace back to Athens for at least another loan spell, this time for the entire season.
Piempongsant has asked for patience and calmness amongst the current players in the roster as his hands are tied until the shares are transferred and the sale of the club becomes official. He told Dabizas to tell the players that they can expect to see developments in their respective cases after the 20th of June. However, this may be an issue for Molins, Lod, Mystakidis and Kace as their contracts are set to run out, so in these instances action may be taken earlier.
Karagounis Wanted as Ambassador
Finally, according to recent reports, Piempongsant wants former Trifylli and National Team legend Giorgos Karagounis to return to the club in an ambassadorial type of role, similar to that of Christian Karembeu at Olympiakos. As previously mentioned, the Thai is aware of the need to surround himself with people that know the weight of the Panathinaikos shirt and know how Greek football operates, so Karagounis appears to be the perfect fit for this role.
It remains unknown as to whether or not Karagounis himself would be open to such as role, as he has previously indicated he would not like to get involved with the Greek Super League, however, he enjoys a great relationship with Nikos Dabizas which could help get the move over the line. A meeting between Piempongsant and Karagounis would need to be scheduled, but reports have emerged that there has been communication between the pair.