Former Panathinaikos manager Nikos Nioplias launched a strong attack against the club’s technical director Carlos Freitas and former sports director Costas Antoniou on Thursday, while defending his tenure at the club that included winning the double last season.
His interview to a Greek sports radio station prompted a strong reaction by the club as well as Freitas and Antoniou.
Nioplias accused Freitas of meddling with the team and then securing the appointment of fellow Portuguese manager Jesualdo Ferreira a few weeks before the sacking of Nioplias.
“Are there any moral principles here? They had found the new manager three or four weeks before I left. In a meeting with the president [Nikolas Pateras] and Freitas, Pateras asked him what was wrong, and the Portuguese said that Gilberto [Silva] is a former player, [Giourkas] Seitaridis is a former player, [Costas] Katsouranis is a former player… And then a week later he goes out and brings his friend Ferreira as manager. It drives you crazy,» stated Nioplias.
“Everyone says that for everything that happened in the summer it is Nioplias to blame, it is Katsouranis or [Giorgos] Karagounis to blame. Don’t they have any shame? During the course of the season it is noone’s fault. If you are not happy with somebody you let him go in the summer.”
He added that Pateras did not know much about soccer, so it was Freitas and Antoniou who had full control of the team, and they created an artificial tension in order to make Nioplias go.
“I resigned, not because I could not stand the pressure, but because I could not stand other things in there, just like the players cannot stand them. I stayed on because the board believed in me and I thought the situation would change, but it didn’t. Everyone must take their responsibility and not blame it all on one person. Some things you just cannot stand.”
Nioplias stressed there was too much pressure on the players, too: «If all day they tell you are not good enough, how can you perform on the pitch?”
A few hours after the airing of the interview, Panathinaikos issued a statement suggesting that the timing of the interview was rather strange, just as Panathinaikos is in the middle of a season and still vying for the league and the cup.
“This means that we have neither the intention or the scope for looking back, or for allowing all that is said by people formerly working at Panathinaikos to disorientate our effort,» the statement read.
Freitas’s reaction, through the club’s website, was even stronger: «His references to me are totally untrue. Never have I privately or publicly spoken in demeaning terms about players of our club, with which I had and still have excellent relations and cooperation. Anything said to the opposite direction does not affect me and cannot disorientate me from my focus on helping Panathinaikos reach its targets.”
Antoniou was more cautious, suggesting that «those of us who are now away from Panathinaikos should help the club by remaining silent.”