Star Frenchman set to go

Olympiakos star player Christian Karembeu, a member of France’s World Cup-winning team in 1998, is reportedly set to abandon his Greek club following a dispute with a highly ranked team official. Sources said that talks between Karembeu and Olympiakos to extend the player’s expiring contract broke down after the club official pressured the French star to negotiate without the presence of his manager. According to sources, Karembeu, who has brushed aside transfer interest shown by various foreign clubs during his three-year tenure with Olympiakos, is expected to return to the English Premier League, where he played with Middlesbrough during the 1999-2000 season before transferring to Olympiakos. At this stage, Manchester City, which has already expressed interest in acquiring the player, appears to be the most likely candidate for Karembeu’s next move. To hold on to him, Olympiakos would have to offer Karembeu a contract worth close to 1 million euros annually, which, at present, appears an unlikely prospect. Karembeu, who enjoys considerable respect among teammates, rival players and Greek soccer fans, has played a pivotal role in helping Olympiakos win two league titles since his arrival. The Piraeus club, which has won seven successive league titles, currently lies second, two points behind front runner Panathinaikos with two rounds of play remaining. Though the season is not yet over, Olympiakos, irrespective of its result in the title race, is already determined to find a new coach. Time is running out for the club’s current man, Nikos Alefantos, one of the country’s more eccentric soccer figures brought in late this season to steer the club through the remaining rounds after Olympiakos’s president fired Ukranian Oleg Protasov. Sources said team officials were focusing their interest on Spanish club Real Sociedad’s French coach Raynald Denoueix as well as Serb-Greek Dusan Bajevic, who has already served two tenures with Olympiakos. Quite remarkably, despite raking in title after title for seven years now, the Piraeus club has had trouble establishing enduring ties with coaches. Olympiakos has hired and fired close to 20 coaches since the club’s president Socrates Kokkalis, a prominent entrepreneur, took over in 1993. Protasov, who joined Olympiakos late last season, was given his marching orders immediately after the club surrendered top spot in the Greek league earlier this season. Last weekend, the Ukranian’s replacement, Alefantos, failed to lead the club to a Greek Cup title after losing 3-1 to Panathinaikos in the final.

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