Traditionally Greece’s biggest club next to the capital’s Big Three, Olympiakos Pirea, Panathinaikos and AEK, PAOK have struggled for success since claiming their last piece of silverware, the domestic Cup, back in 2003. Debt-ridden, they have in fact failed to qualify for Europe for three seasons in a row.
However, with iconic Thodoris Zagorakis as stand-in chairman and fellow 2004 European Champions Zisis Vryzas, Yorgos Georgiadis holding key positions in the football department, Dikefalos have been busy rebuilding from scratch this summer.
It was now or never
All three of them former Lyberopoulos’ teammates, along with his former AEK coach Fernando Santos they tried to convince the international forward to join PAOK after he was surprisingly released of his AEK contract. However, the proposed 900.000-euros two-year deal did not do the trick, as Lyberopoulos, who turns 33 on August 4, wanted to try his luck abroad and finally teamed up with Yannis Amanatidis at Eintracht Frankfurt yesterday.
Having conceded defeat, the Thessaloniki club immediately turned to Bosnia – Herzegovina international striker Muslimović, whom they failed to lure last January. The 27-year-old former Göteborg, Udinese and Parma man has been in Greece on holiday for the past fortnight and he met up with his former Perugia teammate Vryzas in Thessaloniki before taking off to Mykonos.
Bridging the gap?
According to several Greek media, PAOK have agreed personal terms with Muslimović somewhere in the region of 500.000 euros a year, although not yet with Atalanta. The Bergamo club have reportedly reduced their demands from one million to 700.000, which is still far from the 400.000 the Greeks are offering.
The towering centre-forward, who also holds Swedish citizenship, has been plying his trade in Italy since 1999, although with nine (!) different sides. Atalanta paid half a million for his services a year ago, but he only played in 10 matches and scored twice this last season.
A whole new squad
PAOK were forced to sell two key players, Portuguese international goalkeeper Dani Fernandes to Bochum for 1.1 million euros and international attacking midfielder Lazaros Hristodoulopoulos to Panathinaikos for double that fee, while Serbian international sweeper Goran Gavrančić’s loan from Ukrainian Superkubok holders Dynamo Kiev expired.
On the other hand, his countryman Vladan Ivić followed international custodian Kostas Halkias in from bitter city rivals Aris, Argentine holding midfielder Ricardo Verón concluded his transfer from Siena, while Chilean international Pablo Contreras was signed from Sporting de Braga and Brazilian Marcos António joined in on loan from Auxerre to bolster PAOK’s defense.
Now Santos focuses on the attack, as Moldovan Viorel Frunza, South African Glen Salmon and Serbian Ivica Iliev all left at the end of the season. Dikefalos have signed Ivory Coast international Ibrahima Bakayoko from Larisa and the second division top scorer Ilias Anastasakos from Super League new boys Thrasyvoulos, but at least another goal-getter is needed if PAOK are to contest for European places in the coming campaign.
Panos Bletsos, Goal.com