SPORTS

Machlas to bid farewell to Ajax

Nikos Machlas, one of the country’s most successful soccer exports, a striker noted for his prolific scoring ability that had stands full of Dutch fans dancing to syrtaki music played over stadium PA systems each time he netted a goal, has admitted that his days with the Dutch club Ajax, as well as the Netherlands, are numbered. The striker, who signed with Ajax from fellow Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem three years ago for 9 million dollars – a record transfer fee between two Dutch clubs at the time – has disclosed that a mutual agreement was reached with his club’s administration to end the association. Machlas, now approaching 30 and getting less playing time with Ajax, was quoted as telling a Champions League sponsor’s website that his end at the club was now just days away. He attributed the move to the team’s youth-oriented policy. «I fully understand Ajax because I know that this is how the team operates and admit that I expected things to turn out this way,» Machlas noted. «I’m now 29 years old, and am considered old for the logic at Ajax, a club that survives by signing players for 10 euros and later sells them for 300,» he added, while commending the club for its infrastructure, organization and «amazing» soccer academy. «I have no complaints about Ajax. If I were playing for another club in England, Germany, Spain, or Italy, I would not be dealing with such an issue, but Ajax is a different story with a unique approach that we must respect,» said Machlas. «This is a truly great club.» A greenhouse for budding talent maintained by some of the country’s sharpest talent scouts, Ajax has repeatedly discovered, nurtured and established young unknowns as stars before selling them to some of Europe’s biggest clubs for lucrative sums. But the Greek player was an exception to the policy, and arrived at Ajax a readymade star in 1999 after topping the country’s scorers’ list the previous season with 34 goals. It was the first time a foreign player had exceeded 30 goals in a season in the Dutch league. Machlas, who has spent the past seven seasons playing in the Netherlands after serving with Cretan club OFI for five years, said both he and Ajax agreed that now was the right time to change clubs, and possibly countries. An offer from a European club has already been made, he said, without elaborating, while the prospect of a return to Greece remained open. «Yes, I’d like to return to the homeland to play soccer, but would have to find a team that fulfills my objectives,» said Machlas. «At the moment, however, I haven’t received any offers from a Greek team, but it’s too early to tell.» Machlas estimated that his transit period would be brief, and said that he expected solid news about his transfer early in the new year, during January’s transfer season. Competitively, Machlas said that he was in prime shape, and at an optimal age for «any team other than Ajax.»