Olympiacos Summer Transfer Period - A Wind of Change That Nobody Knows Where it Will Lead
Olympiacos have already made quite a few changes over the last few weeks, both in and out of the dressing room, but by the looks of things, the biggest of them is yet to come.
Ah, yes. The summer transfer window. Every football fan’s favourite time of the year! Where we frantically keep refreshing our social media pages or our most trusted football websites, hoping that our club makes an announcement that will have us running to the airport (or at least on YouTube, where we can watch highlights and dream of what our roster will be like next season.)
Olympiacos haven’t been quiet on that side of things. Far from it actually! They started off strong by moving swiftly and with complete secrecy to secure the signature of Croatian World Cup finalist Sime Vrsaljko who left Atletico Madrid as a free agent. A right-back with international experience who’s only 30 years old. Usually, players like these wouldn’t even give the Greek League a second look. But it was thanks to the quick moves of club owner Evangelos Marinakis that such a player could be tempted to sign for Olympiacos.
It would be difficult to follow that, but still Olympiacos managed pretty well! Before announcing the transfer of Vrsaljko, the Piraeus club had also signed fellow right-back Gonzalo Avila Gordon from Huddersfield, Danish winger Philip Zinckernagel and former Aris and Fulham striker Aboubakar Kamara among others.
With these three players in tow, the team began the first part of their training camp in Austria, aiming to be ready for the Champions League qualifiers. They found out soon after who they’d be up against, as they were drawn with Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa.
After the end of a rather disappointing and troubling training camp, Olympiacos were set to play their first match against Maccabi in Israel. They barely came away with a 1-1 draw, in a game that was mostly controlled by the opposition. Olympiacos manager Pedro Martins’ men were unable to string more than two passes together. Yet after this underwhelming performance, he stood in front of the cameras and told everyone that the team would be prepared for the return game at the ‘Karaiskakis’ a week later.
That ended up being a lie. The Olympiacos fans who maxed out the stadium, enduring the summer heat to support their team, were subjected to one of the most - if not *the* most - embarrassing performances by the club in its European history. Olympiacos lost 0-4 to Maccabi and were thrown out of the Champions League from the second qualifying round, as if they were some minor club from Luxembourg or Malta.
The fans - justifiably - asked for Martins to resign, or for the club to intervene and fire him, repeatedly after the end of that game. The same man who almost took the club to the Europa League quarter-finals, knocking Arsenal out in the process, who was once known as the ‘Professor” among the Olympiacos faithful and had reached an untouchable status, had now been relegated to the position of an undesirable figure at the Rentis training ground.
Before the club confirmed Carlos Corberan as Martins’ successor, the Greek champions also moved on to secure the services of a couple of highly talented players. Two rather interesting transfers, the likes of which are not usually seen in Greek football.
The first of the two is a signing from a surprisingly different market and a really exciting addition! His name is Hwang In-beom and he's a South Korean international. He is what’s commonly known as a “box-to-box” midfielder. Essentially, he’ll be the one carrying the ball between defence and attack.
Even though he recently played in Russia for Rubin Kazan, this signing proves that the Olympiacos scouting team has truly expanded its horizons to all corners of the world.
Hwang, the first-ever South Korean player to join the team, has solid numbers to show from all the previous clubs that he played for. Starting his career at his home nation’s club, Daejeon Citizen, he’s gone on to play in the MLS and the Russian League, while his performances have also earned him a position in the starting line-up of the South Korean national team. We’re talking about one of the two to three strongest sides in Asia, alongside Japan and Saudi Arabia. And all this, at the ripe age of 25. Based on these stats, it’s easy to see that Olympiacos have made a very smart move here.
The second signing also appears to be a very interesting one, but in completely different ways. Doron Leidner, 20, an Israeli international, is set to join the club to give Oleg Reabciuk a run for his money. The name may not say a lot but for those who’ve read the reports, they’ll know that we’re talking about a very exciting prospect! He became a member of the national team a few months ago, while he’s been playing professional football since the age of 18! He’s also been hailed as the second most talented left-back below the age of 20 playing outside Europe’s top-five leagues! That’s definitely not something to turn your back on.
There’s also been rumours that the club is in the market for a winger, yet so many names have been flying around recently, it’s hard to pin one down. Additionally, among other things, the name of World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti recently appeared as a player that Olympiacos are interested in. Take that with a grain of salt.
All these transfers show that something is definitely changing at Olympiacos. While previously the scope may have been a bit too narrow, with young players coming in from France or England’s lower divisions in hopes we’d hit the jackpot and come out with another Yaya Toure, now it seems the club isn’t afraid to look elsewhere for players with international experience on their feet who are at a young age and have a hunger to play football and contribute. Both Hwang and Leidner are perfect examples of this! Of course, that’s not to say that if they find a good opportunity from the big leagues, such as Vrsaljko (or Umtiti), you’re going to let it go to waste!
But not everything is sugar and rainbows at the club. Right now, it’s difficult to pinpoint who exactly is making the decisions for the squad or for any future additions. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a player with Umtiti’s experience would be invaluable for any Greek team and you don’t really need to ask a manager about that, but still, what if they want to bring in their own defenders after a while?
Furthermore, there are so many players who are still under contract with Olympiacos and could be put to great use that sometimes, it’s difficult to believe that the club is looking to make new additions.
Pepe, Ogmundur Kristensen, Fotis Kitsos, Leonardo Koutris, Kenny Lala, Thanasis Androutsos, Marios Vrousai, Giannis Masouras, Nikola Cumic, Lazar Randjelovic, Denis Alijagic, Maximiliano Lovera, Algassime Ba… it’s as if Martins chose these players as he fancied, then dropped them out of the squad when he was done with them!
Let’s not forget, these are real-life human beings, not some character in a simulation program. The club has to start letting some of them go (as they recently did with Ruben Semedo and they’re rumoured to be doing with Tiquinho Soares) if they’re not in the next manager’s plans. For its own financial benefit (how many can they afford to keep paying before they go bust?) as well as their peace of mind.
While it is understandable that this is not a choice that should be made lightly, the club is also under the pressure of time. Next Thursday they face Slovan Bratislava for a place in the Europa League play-off qualifiers. A potential second disqualification from a team that is not on the same level as Olympiacos (financially) would leave a huge scar on the club’s image.
In closing, the summer transfer window has been a highly eventful one and it’s nowhere near over. It is my opinion that, once things begin to clear up a bit with the European qualifiers, then things will also clear up within the squad itself. Right now, everything’s a bit up in the air so the team can survive these incredibly crucial games.
The new signings show that Olympiacos have taken a different stance when it comes to transfers, however Martins’ infatuation with certain players and the board’s blind dedication towards him have put their European journey in jeopardy. Which leads to a single conclusion: the next few weeks promise to be highly eventful and entertaining! Stick around!