SPORTS

Panathinaikos defender set for Glasgow Rangers

Rugged Panathinaikos defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos was expected to signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with leading Scottish club Glasgow Rangers yesterday in a deal that will reportedly earn the player annual fees of 900,000 euros. The 25-year-old defender, who is renowned as one of the country’s most uncompromising players, traveled to Glasgow yesterday aboard a private jet owned by the Scottish club, to finalize the deal. Panathinaikos will reportedly receive a sum of 2.2 million euros as well as rights for a commission from a future move by the player. Two English clubs, Southampton and Portsmouth, where former Panathinaikos team manager Velimir Zajec recently moved for a respective post, were also eager to sign Kyrgiakos. Commenting extensively and favorably on Kyrgiakos’s expected move, Panathinaikos’s Danish international Rene Henriksen described the Scottish club’s choice as a good one. «Sotiris has incredible physical strength and is very commanding in the penalty box. He is a great player and the fans will take to him instantly,» Henriksen was quoted as telling Scottish publication the Daily Record. «He’s probably the best marker in Greece and the type of player opposition forwards hate to play against. In my opinion, the bigger the occasion, the better he plays. In the Champions League, he has been immense for us over the past few years,» the Dane added. Henriksen also noted that Rangers’ acquisition would «relish the rivalry with Celtic» as «in Greece he is probably the player [archrival] Olympiakos fans most love to hate.» Ironically, Rangers and Kyrgiakos had crossed swords in a Champions League game in Athens in 2003 that sidelined the Greek defender with torn ligaments in his left knee. The injury kept Kyrgiakos out for the rest of that season and forced him to miss Greece’s Euro 2004 triumph. He has since made an impressive recovery. Last weekend, in what was probably his final game for Panathinaikos, Kyrgiakos scored twice in his side’s 5-1 demolition of Cretan club OFI. He had never before struck the net twice in a game with the Athens club. Panathinaikos, the Greek league’s defending champion, has exported a considerable number of players in recent years, including key Euro 2004 internationals Yiourkas Seitaridis and Giorgos Karagounis to Porto and Inter Milan respectively. Karagounis, however, has struggled to cement his place in the star-studded Italian team’s starting lineup, but has proven a valuable contributor whenever selected.