With the transfer window now closed, the Olympiakos squad at Marco Silva’s disposal for the first half of the 2015/16 season is known. As well as a number of high profile and promising additions to the squad, the summer period inevitably saw a number of players leave. With club matters on hold for a couple of weeks to accommodate the international break, this gives us the chance to reflect on those who left the Karaiskakis this summer and see where our departed friends find themselves for the coming season.
Fan favourite and scorer of 81 goals across two spells in the Red & White is Kostas Mitroglou. Mitrogoal has found himself out on loan from Fulham again, with a season-long loan at Portugese giants Benfica. Joining former Thrylos and Greece team mate Andreas Samaris in Lisbon. Mitroglou’s start to life in Portugal has gone well with him finding the net on his debut, the club’s 4-0 win over Silva’s former club, Estoril. Many Oly fans, I’m sure, will wish him well as he competes in a side with a very realistic chance of domestic titles and allows him to continue to compete in continental competion as Benfica enter this season’s Champions League group stages.
Another Greek striker who won’t be playing his football at the Karaiskakis this season is Dimitris Diamantakos. After signing a contract extension with the Reds, The Spartan has moved to 2.Bundesliga side Karlsruhe. A move which should hopefully benefit all parties. Dimitris will hope that a season in Germany’s second tier will see him get far more first team opportunities than he found here last term. The Germans have taken on a fine young player and if he can settle to life abroad, they should profit from an attacker with a good eye for goal. He has yet to start a game for the Germans, but being early in the season he will be confident there is plenty of time and opportunity for him to impress on the training ground and force his way into the first team squad. It will be hoped that in ten months time we have a player returning enriched from his experiences.
With Diamantakos moving to another corner of Europe to find game time Paraguayan forward, Jorge Benitez, will be another noticeable absence from the striking ranks this season. After a season at the club he has made a trip back across the Atlantic, another player leaving on a season-long loan. Mexican top flight side Cruz Azul have turned to Benitez to help put an end to their problems in front of goal. The player will hope his move to the Mexican capital will give him the regular first team opportunities he was unable enjoy at Oly. He didn’t feature a great deal under Michel during the early part of the season, a bedding in period and a certain amount of grace should be granted and expected for any young player in the early stages of their pro-career. Unlike Diamantakos, even as a player out of the first XI, Benitez did feature in a decent amount of games throughout the season – 26 in all and netting a modest nine goal in those appearances. So, it could be said that the presence of Jorge Benitez will be that most missed of all our out-going loanees. With over half of his appearances being made from the bench, and being played in a number of forward positions – sometimes wide right, wide left, playing as the second striker and other times having to lead the line on his own – it can only be assumed that with real run of starting places and afforded a role of his own that he would undoubtedly continue his scoring and only be able to improve on it. Given the chance to flourish, under a coach that has faith in him, the Paraguayan has the potential to become one of the continent’s finest attackers.
In a summer where by it seems we lost a number of strikers that Manchester United and Arsenal could only dream of, as is always the case, a number of players who haven’t really cut it in the first team headed out on loan. Marko Scepovic and Michael Olaitan will both be playing BeNeLux football for the current season. With both players having considerable first team game time in the past, many expected these two to be heading out of the exit for good this summer. Scepovic finds himself at Belgian Jupiler League side Royal Mouscron-Peruwelz. While the Nigerian hitman, Olaitan, looks to revive his career with a very promising loan move to 2010 Eredivise winners, FC Twente. Olaitan should probably be afforded some period of grace following his unfortunate and well documented health problems, even so, these loan moves surely have to be the last chance this pair has to prove they can score en-mass and deserve a place in the Olympiakos team for the 2016/17 season.
After a summer where he was called up the Greece U19 to take part in the European championships, in which they reached the semi-finals, Nikos Vergos has left the club on loan. Nikos will play his football in Spain this season with Segunda side, Elche. It is believed the player will be enabled to continue his development at a better pace, without the pressure of playing for a club where the fans accept nothing less than being crowned national champions annually.
Also playing their football in Spain this season is Balázs Megyeri. After spending five seasons at the port, the Hungarian shot-stopper has signed for the little brother of the Madrid sides, Getafe. Balázs played a total of 74 games for Thrylos, with the majority of his appearances coming in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons where he found himself becoming a first team regular. His other seasons at the club were spent as a more than capable back-up, mainly featuring in cup games. After seeing his tears at the end of last season, it was clear to see what the club meant to him. I’m sure we all hope he goes on to cement the first team place in a side that he deserves.
Asteras Tripolis will profit from the services of Kostas Giannoulis at left back, after signing for the Peloponnese club six days after reaching an agreement to leave Olympiakos. The emergence of a star in Masuaku meant that game time was thin on the ground last season. Giannoulis is an experienced player, with over 150 Superleague appearances including over 100 games for Atromitos, he wasn’t content with being at a club and settling for second best. In Asteras he has found a club in which he can test himself on the European stage in the Europa League, and that should comfortably be competing domestically in and around the European playoff places. Having been called up to this current national squad, Giannoulis will be hopeful that this is a sign of things to come and he can add to his sole Greek cap.
Felipe Santana arrived on loan in January, amidst a lot of glitz, glamour hope and with the weight of fans expectations heaped on his shoulders. After all, this was a player who had played over 100 Bundesliga games, sat on the bench for a Champions League final and most importantly won the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double – with a side that wasn’t Bayern Munich! The Brazilian arrived at the club when results hadn’t been going so well, Michel had recently departed and Vitor Pereira had come in to attempt to turn our season around. During his debut he looked phenomenal – calm, composed, quick, strong, winning all the aerial battles – just what you want from your centre half. In that game he looked a cut above everyone else in the league, but sadly, that is where it ended. The player faded away rapidly over the following few games and quickly found himself looking very average. He would find himself getting caught out as a result of venturing too far up the pitch or would lose his man easily and let us concede needless goals. As a result, he quickly found himself out of the side as Siovas was seen as the main man at the back with either Avlonitis or Botia for the remainder of our successful campaign. So, unfortunate as it may be, but he had that little impact on the team that the fans won’t even notice his absence, let alone have the chance to miss him. Felipe, linked with an unsuccessful move to FC Köln this summer, still finds himself on the books with Schalke, although, he has been told that he does not have a future at the club. So who knows what the future will hold for Santana?
Two other players that will not be with us for the forthcoming season after returning to their clubs following loan spells are Delvin N’Dinga and Ibrahim Affelay. On loan for two seasons from Monaco, it was easy to forget that Delvin was only at the club on loan. During his second season at the club he formed a strong central midfield pairing with Luka Milivojevic. The emergence of Bouchalakis and the signing of Esteban Cambiasso to partner Milivojevic, will ensure that N’Dinga’s presence isn’t missed on the field this season. N’Dinga will surely be missed by the fans, though. He has moved to Lokomotiv Moscow on another loan and has quickly established himself as a first starter featuring in six matches already this season.
Affelay on the other hand won’t be so fondly remembered by the fans. Another player to arrive at the Karaiskakis with a big reputation and star quality. Affelay started the season very well, eager to impress both his new manager, fans and the watching world. A series of fine displays in the league early in the season along with some star performances in Europe, including goals against Atletico Madrid and Malmo, had people talking about the new star of Olympiakos. However, this excitement proved to be short lived. As the first half of the season drew to a close all did not seem well at the port. Performances as well as results were not positive for the club and Affelay’s form had dipped and game time was becoming rare. Michel departed the club as manager mid-season and rumours of unrest started to circle – Affelay’s name mentioned a number of times amongst these stories of unrest and revolt in the camp. Thankfully, even under Pereira he found game time hard to come by as the player was excluded from the first time for the majority of the second half of the season. This season sees him play for Stoke City in the English Premier League, where he has already found himself on the wrong side of the referees with a red card in his third game, earning him a two match ban. No matter how big a name he thinks he may be, he will not be missed amongst the Thrylos faithful. He was a very expensive mistake, one that brought more trouble to the club than he was worth. But, thankfully, he is Stoke City’s problem now.