The acquisition of a main man up front is an undeniable necessity but in terms of strength in depth in the striking department, the squad is in pretty good shape. There is enough quality at the club already. Jorge Benitez needs to be given a run of games in the side to truly settle and show what he can do. Benitez is a young lad who moved to Greece from a completely different continent, it was inevitable that he would need a period to settle in. In a post-season interview he gave, he even addressed the fact that he needed time to settle, however, he enjoyed his season. When he did feature for the team he was never given a consistent run in the side, nor given a regular position – he was used sometimes up front on his own, occasionally as part of a pair up the top and at other times on the wings. Despite these factors, he still managed 9 goals in his 27 games across all competitions. A 1 in 3 strike rate for someone so young and in unfamiliar territory is highly promising. Just over twelve months ago, in the build up to the world cup, Jorge earned his first international cap. He has won two caps to date. There have been several media reports declaring a move for Benitez could be on the table this summer. It would be unfortunate if that were the case, the Paraguayan could go on to be a big star. Not just for Olympiakos but at the highest level. The player will no doubt be keen to add to his international caps, if he feels he will not get the game time at the Karaiskakis, then it may well be the player himself that requests a move.
This time last year it appeared that the 2014/15 season would be the breakthrough season for Dimitris Diamantakos. During the club’s pre-season tour to the United States, Diamantakos was in fine form scoring three goals in the games against AC Milan and Man City. This came off the back of a successful season spent on loan at fellow Superleague side Ergotelis. During the loan spell he was a first team regular for the Cretan club, he was able to contribute nine goals to their impressive 7th placed finish. Many fans were both surprised and disappointed with the season he just encountered. He only played a part in eight games in the league and only four of those was a starting place. He did win his first full cap for Greece during the season, but even that would be scant consolation because of the dire situation the national team finds itself in. This summer has seen the player linked with a move to Germany’s second division, this is disappointing as he deserves a chance in the first team before being allowed to leave the club. In his eight league appearances he found the net twice and managed the same amount of goals for the team during the successful cup run. Greek talent is something the club should look to be retaining, UEFA’s home-grown quotas are something we should be mindful of. In terms of genuine quality, only Maniatis, Fortounis and now Kapino would be ahead of him of the Greek national players in a Champions League squad. Siovas will be in the squad, and his name would be on any squad list ahead of Diamantakos, but that is solely because of our lack of numbers at the back. Diamantakos is one of the best Greek players at the club, he should be kept and given the opportunity to shine – for the good of Olympiakos and the nation.
Franco Jara has had some interest from both Argentina and the UAE this summer. It would be no real loss if we were to lose him, he has never really won a place in the hearts of the fans, despite scoring some important goals as last season’s double-winning season drew to a close. That being said, he would be a good squad player. If he was the 3rd or 4th pick up front and used in Greek Cup games, or cover for injury and to rest players around European fixtures, he would be a useful member of the squad. If, however, he isn’t happy with that role then sadly he should be moved on, he doesn’t score enough to be the club’s number one striker.
The cases of both Michael Olaitan and Marko Scepovic should be decided and released if they are deemed to not have any place in the team. Having an excessively large squad and constantly having practically a squad’s worth of players out on loan is not a model that should be sustained. The size of our squad should be trimmed, too many of our peripheral figures such as Olaitan and Scepovic are at an age (22 and 24 respectively) where they should be finding a club and getting regular football. The case of Olaitan is a particular unfortunate one as he was out for ten months following his collapse towards the end of the 2013/14 season. Even so, both of these players have featured for the first team in the 2013/14 season enough to make an impression but have ended up going out on loan. Scepovic was loaned out to two clubs last season, this is a player who has had a 1 in 3 strike rate over three seasons with Partizan Belgrade and earned five internationals caps with Serbia. Marco Silva has a lot to sort out, as you’d expect with any incoming manager, but he should assess these two players for the remainder of the pre-season tests and make a decision to either keep them and use them or to cash in and sell. If we keep loaning them out or not playing them they will remain at the club and will end up running their contracts down and end up leaving for free. Ultimately losing out twice, not getting a return from the player in terms of goals and minutes played as well as losing out in them being a saleable asset.
This is a very important pre-season and season for us. From the 2016/17 season the Superleague will no longer have it’s direct entry to the Champions League, so twelve months from now it could be a lot harder to attract players to the club than it is now. So it’s imperative that we build as good a squad as possible this season. And that needs to start with forming an attack that is ready to take us forward this season, performing better than last season’s abject displays. We also need our attack to be willing to stay and grow with the club, even if that were with no Champions League football. Historically there has been a far too high turnover of playing staff at the club and that culture needs to change if we are ever going to progress further than simply domestic superiority.