Season number 5. Time to put a marker down in Europe i feel
This window saw for the first time spending beat incoming money as 4 new players joined the club. Firstly, lets get to our outgoings, we lost both Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Vaclav Cerny whose loan deals from Arsenal expired and a renewal was just too pricey for us. In the end Cerny became transfer listed and despite agreeing a transfer fee and a contract he decided to join Crystal Palace instead.
Marcos Llorente had been wanting a move for awhile and eventually Napoli matched his minimum release fee of £5m and the Spaniard went off to Italy. Dimitris Koubelis is a good player but he was going to be mainly on the bench this season and £2.5m is again good business for a fringe player. The other major transfers out of the club saw young striker Sotiris Pispas leave for just £60k as he was never going to get to his initial potential and the young Norwegian Mella-Hollko looks a better bet. Alexander Palocevic went back to Serbia joining Red Star for £900k rising to £1.3m and 3rd choice keeper Giannakopoulos was moved on for £5k. A bunch of youngsters went to Bari who you may remember are our feeder club.
So with all of that business we needed another central midfielder to replace the outgoing Llorente and Koubelis as well as new wingers to replace Cerny and Reine-Adelaide. The first man in was Boschilla from Monaco. The Brazilian attacking midfielder has been a target of mine since my first season and when his contract expired i swooped in for the Brazilian who instantly becomes an upgrade to the outgoing Palocevic.
On the central midfield front we stayed local and went to Atromitos to secure 19 year old Balatsouras for £1.5m. The 19 year old regen has some solid stats and with game time which he is going to get this season he could turn into a decent player for us over the next few years. Finally the wingers we selected are Sevilla's Luka Adzic and PSG's Jonathan Ikone. Adzic was signed for £6m which is a Greek National Record and Ikone joins for £1.9m. Adzic has a good all round game with Ikone being a much pacier option for the wings. To aid them i also promoted young Nikos Kallergis to the first team to be understudy to these guys and Harold Quintero.
So for the first time we have spent more than we bought in but it was always going to need to get to that point. Quality costs and we need to improve to compete in Europe.
Our 2nd place last season earned us a 3rd qualifying round place in the Champions League. We are placed 72nd in the coefficient table and it was not enough to get us seeded meaning a difficult tie was always going to be on the cards. The draw saw us against Sporting Lisbon of Portugal. A side we got 4 points from in last year's Champions League group so i had some confidence that we could do the same again.
The first leg saw us in Portugal and with the new signings we had a tough start as Sporting raced into a 2-0 lead early into the game. We needed to get a goal back to give us a chance and so i switched the tactic up to a counter attacking stance and it worked as broke quickly through Andres Martinez who got a goal back in the 39th Minute. 3 Minutes later we had a 2nd as Luka Adzic slotted home a penalty on his debut. At 2-2 we kept the counter attacking option on and it seemed to stifle the Portuguese for long enough as the game finished.
Back in Athens, we played a similar team and kept the tactic as counter attacking. It did the trick as Boschilla put us 1-0 up and despite conceding we held onto a 1-1 draw going through on away goals. In the play-off round we probably lucked out as we were paired with Dynamo Kiev.
This time we started at home in the 1st leg and in what was a very attack minded game we came out 5-2 winners to put us in pole position to get through to the group stages. We secured that place by hitting two goals in 9 minutes to put us 7-2 up on aggregate. Kiev ended up winning 3-2 but to be honest i dont care as we got Champions League football again.
As 4th seeds we were always going to get a tough group but this was another shocker
If we are playing European football after Christmas i will be in absolute shock.
Two league games down and 4 points picked up with 0 goals conceded as we have rotated the squad around the Champions League qualifiers.
Cracking start to pre-season as to get through the Champions League qualifiers was a difficult task for the team. The new boys look good with Adzic and Boschilla settling in well and we do look to be playing well. The pre-season friendlies saw us in full flight and i think when we get the rotation right we should be right up there with Olympiacos fighting for my 3rd league title.
Financially wise we are in our best financial state and i used this to get increases to both our Junior Coaching and Youth Recruitment as the Panathinaikos project rumbles on. It has been a project and one i dont think i will complete in time for FM18's release. I won't be getting the Beta but it only leaves me 4 weeks to win a Champions League that we have been no where near.
Interestingly both Chelsea and Man City are looking at me as a potential new manager but neither are eligible sides so i will rule them out. However, if one of the eligible sides does come up i might just jump ship especially if it gives me a chance to win a Champions League before FM18