SPORTS

Panathinaikos introduces its new coach, Alberto Malesani

A day after its 1-0 win over Spanish club Seville in a third-round, first-leg UEFA Cup match in Athens, Panathinaikos yesterday presented its new coach, Italian Alberto Malesani. «I’m happy I’ve come to Panathinaikos. I could have joined the club four years ago but that didn’t happen,» Malesani told reporters at his first news conference as coach of the Athens club. «Panathinaikos is the best-known team in Italy. I know the team from games it has played against Italian clubs. The side proved its worth against Seville,» added the low-key figure. Malesani, 51, was introduced to the club’s squad after the news conference. Following a brief career as a player in lower Italian leagues, Malesani called it a day in 1978, at the age of 24, to focus on coaching instead. He had most recently worked with Modena in Italy, last season. Leading Parma to a UEFA Cup triumph as well as the Italian Cup, both in the 1998-99 season, rank as Malesani’s career highlights. Soon after, in 2001, Malesani switched to Verona for two seasons before moving again, to Modena, last season. The news of Malesani’s deal with Panathinaikos, a one-and-a-half year deal reported to be worth just under 700,000 euros per annum, was made official just a couple of hours prior to the Greek club’s clash against Seville on Wednesday night. Reports during Panathinaikos’s hunt for a new coach said the club had also come into contact with Trond Sollied, the man in charge at Belgian front runner Brugge. His contract there expires in 2007. Malesani, who watched Panathinaikos from the club’s stands Wednesday night, said the performance stood as a promising sign for the team’s future. «Cooperation between everybody is necessary – players, administration, even physicians – to make greater achievements,» Malesani stressed. «Passion is my main trait, and I like players that play with passion and give absolutely everything they’ve got,» he added. Malesani thanked his predecessors at the club, adding that he would gradually introduce his own coaching principles. Responding to a question on whether he believed a mid-season coaching takeover was a disadvantage, Malesani described his task as «a daily challenge.» The Italian coach listed a berth in next year’s Champions League, Europe’s most lucrative club-level competition, as an objective without ruling out the team’s hopes for this season’s domestic league title. Panathinaikos is currently second, five points behind Olympiakos. He said he would ask interim coach Totis Fylakouris, a veteran player with the club, to assume the assistant’s role. Fylakouris led Panathinaikos in its win over Seville on Wednesday night. The heightened expectations of soccer coaches in Greece did not surprise him, Malesani said. «It’s a common thing everywhere, not just in Greece. Generally, it’s the results that count in soccer,» Malesani said. Highlighting the fickle nature of local administrations, Panathinaikos has made 11 coaching changes over the past four-and-a-half years. The Athens club’s last coach, Czech Zdenek Scasny, who spent a brief four-month tenure with Panathinaikos, had replaced Itzhak Shum after the Israeli led the club to last year’s double – Greek league title and cup.