By George Georgakopoulos
Panathinaikos announced on Monday the signing of former Argentine international striker Luciano Figueroa, a free agent, as the lack of scorers in the Athens giant’s roster has seen it drop a huge number of points in the league and drop out of the cup.
With nine rounds of games left to play in the regular season of the Super League, Panathinaikos already is mathematically out of the running for the championship, a record by Panathinaikos’s standards in the last decade at least. Worse, even the much more realistic target of making the playoffs for a spot in next season’s European competitions is increasingly out of reach, too.
Figueroa is a flamboyant forward with experience from the continent’s top leagues in England, Spain and Italy, but also with a series of injuries that have deprived him for bringing his career up to his potential. The last time he kicked a ball in anger was in late October 2012, followed by an operation that had his club, Emelec of Ecuador, release him in the close season for the South Americans.
He is to be presented by the club on Wednesday afternoon.
Panathinaikos turned to the 32-year-old former Birmingham City man after failing to sign a number of strikers in the winter transfer period, including ex-Rangers scorer Kris Boyd, but Figueroa is unable to help the Greens for now, as he lags in fitness. He is about to start a training schedule that might see him don the green jersey in the last four games of the regular season.
He will be desperately needed by Panathinaikos coach Fabri, who is in serious shortage of strikers. The only decent forward he has been left with is his fellow Spaniard Toche, as the club is languishing in the ninth spot of the table.
Scorer of seven goals in the league, including derby goals against Olympiakos and AEK, Toche is the only credible solution up front for the Greens, and his absence in last Sunday’s league game against Xanthi in Athens was acutely felt: The visitors won (1-0) for only their second time ever at Panathinaikos. Toche was missing due to a suspension, with Fabri being forced to field winger Zeca in attack, without any success.
Fabri realizes that the figures simply do not add up for his team. He will now try to Figueroa out what he can do to turn things around.
Meanwhile another historic club, Aris, found itself in the drop zone on Monday after slumping to a 2-0 defeat at Platanias Hanion.