Chaos intensifying at troubled AEK

Greece captain Theodoros Zagorakis, named the outstanding player at Euro 2004, is involved in a tug-of-war with AEK over a reported move to Italian Serie A club Bologna. The controversial, interim president of cash-strapped AEK, Alexis Kouyias, told reporters Tuesday that Zagorakis had signed a pre-contract with the Italian club worth 1.4 million euros a year. But the player’s manager, Kimon Kokoroyiannis, denied the move yesterday. Kokoroyiannis was unavailable for comment. Zagorakis yesterday asked a sports court to release him from his contract with AEK, state television NET reported. Zagorakis thus joins another eight AEK players who have reportedly also sued the team, including national players Vassilis Tsiartas, Michalis Kapsis and Costas Katsouranis. Many have reportedly not been paid for months. Katsouranis and Kapsis are demanding 753,400 euros in back salary from AEK. They took their case to an arbitration panel two days after they helped the Greek national team to the Euro 2004 title in Portugal last Sunday. AEK has been on the verge of financial collapse for more than a year. A power struggle is raging between Kouyias, a controversial celebrity lawyer, and Demis Nikolaidis, a national team squad member at Euro 2004 and former AEK player. Nikolaidis was believed to control AEK until Kouyias recently took over with the support of shareholders. Kouyias said a bid to buy the troubled club by Greece striker Demis Nikolaidis had failed. AEK is facing relegation to amateur leagues unless it solves its financial problems before the start of the new season. Serb striker Ilja Ivic is also demanding back pay. The club’s new chairman said he is hoping to settle with the players. «We’ll try to come to a compromise… so they can continue their careers at AEK,» Alexis Kouyias said. Greece had never won a match at a major international tournament but the 32-year-old Zagorakis, who won the first of his 94 caps in 1994, helped his side to an astonishing triumph. The victory has spurred calls to clean up the Greek league which has long been troubled by fan violence and allegations of corruption. It also boosted confidence among Greeks ahead of the August 13-29 Olympics. (AFP, AP)