Olympiakos is in Deep Trouble, and This is Why
*The views expressed in this piece represent the authors opinion and not those of Gate 7 International*
The problems are deep at Olympiakos, and no, it is not because the team failed to beat Panetolikos, Panathinaikos, or Apollon to start this year. The problems at this club are deep and are at the core of why the club is beginning to falter. Like all Greek clubs, Olympiakos is run with short-term goals and without an understanding of what it takes to develop a team that can make a European run or reach a competitive European level. Olympiakos has recruited players that give the team the security to win the league but fail to provide the club with any long-term benefits. Players such as Rafinha, Tiago Silva, Cafu, Drager, Bruno, Bruno Gaspar, Bobby Allain, Vinagre, Kristinsson, and MANY more offer securities, but not aspiration. What has buying and playing these players given Olympiakos? A few wins in Greece? Did any of them ever give long-term value to Olympiakos? People will, of course, note that these players were meant for rotation. And I will counter shouldn't rotation be used to promote from within? We have a multimillion-euro youth facility that seemingly isn't in use… In the end, the faults of Pedro Martins will be his inability to take risks, whether that is tactically or player choice. Martins has taken the safe route in almost all of his choices, resulting in an Olympiakos that is good enough for Greece but nowhere near good enough for Europe. Olympiakos fans will undoubtedly remember Pedro Martins for the big wins in Europe, but he will have left the club in the same position it was nearly four years ago. A massive wage budget, poor football, and a lack of vision moving forward. Does that taint his legacy?
It is difficult to criticize a coach who has given Olympiakos some of the best moments it has lived in the past decade. A coach who in 2020 looked like he had built a team strong enough to compete in the Champions League. And to be honest, this piece isn't about Martins or his failures post-COVID. Unfortunately, this theme is more prominent than Pedro Martins and the poor decisions in the past six months. A repeating pattern of fear of taking a significant risk seemingly plagues the club. A level of complacency has destroyed almost all the momentum Olympiakos had moving out of 2020. Players who had massive transfer value were held onto for unknown reasons. Because their price tag wasn't met? Players such as Mady Camara, Ousseynou Ba, Ruben Semedo, and others were not sold when they should have. These players are not meant to stay at Olympiakos for this long, this is not the club of their dreams, and their levels will drop when they perceive they have done all they can. One of the best skills of top clubs is knowing when to sell. Unfortunately, Olympiakos, other than Tsimikas, has not shown an ability to do so under Martins. Without Jorge Mendes, Olympiakos would have little to no results to show in the transfer market for the past few years. That is sad and unfortunate for a team that aspires to compete at the highest levels of Europe.
Another aspect in which Olympiakos has failed is developing youth talent. There is a lack of understanding or willingness within the club to develop its academy graduates or young players. For all the messages bound to come in about Aguibou Camara, I congratulate you for finding one example. A player who had to be perfect and avoid COVID to take his opportunity. Aguibou Camara does not represent the typical process for a young player, and the fans should understand that. A young player will not be perfect when given twenty minutes and forced to play on farms in the Greek Second Division. Aguibou is the exception and not the rule. How many players have seen their careers stalled at Olympiakos because of an inability of Olympiakos to develop them? Players who have shown talent when given a chance but have then instead been replaced by Portuguese 32-year old's. The list is endless, with recent names such as Markovic, Cumic, Vrousai, Sourlis, Cuypers, Giannis Masouras, Dimitris Pinakas, Tzolakis, and more. Olympiakos have failed these players, and I say that sadly. I remember very fondly speaking with a former Olympiakos player who said:
“When I was at the club, some of these kids at the academy were amazing. I thought they could play in La Liga, Serie A, or Ligue 1 one day. However, now when I look them up, I see they fizzled out of Olympiakos and ended up in the Greek second division because they stayed at Olympiakos until they were 23 or older."
Olympiakos doesn't know how to handle a young prospect who isn't perfect. A prospect to make it at Olympiakos needs to be impeccable, or an aging rotation player will replace him. That's not a model you would see in a competently managed team. Like Olympiakos legend Par Zetterberg told us:
“What’s the point of signing an older foreigner if he is only slightly better or slightly more consistent than a player from your academy?”
There is no point other than fear of failure and fear of taking a risk. And I'm not ignorant of the Greek atmosphere and media. But you have to be an Ellinaras if you think this media phenomenon is unique to Greece and not an issue around the continent. Other clubs understand how to mentor and support a prospect. Olympiakos has demonstrated it does not.
On a final note, Olympiakos can turn this around this summer. And simply put, it must turn it around this summer. The signing of players based merely upon their agent must stop, and a focus must be again placed on developing a long-term plan. Loaning in Bruma or Rony Lopes every summer doesn't seem to work… Why don't we try something new? If someone at the club is reading this, I would recommend a revaluation and a long look in the mirror. You're taking this club back down the road to failure, and without some vision and courage, we will end up right back to square one. It's time for changes. For the club's sake, I hope someone is willing to take it. This club has so much potential, and I know these changes will be complex, but they are needed for the sake of long-term growth.
Forever Red and White,