SPORTS

Australian striker expected to join Panathinaikos squad

Australian striker John Aloisi, who made a huge impact at the Confederations Cup by scoring four goals in three games for his national team, arrived in Athens early yesterday to sign a new contract with Panathinaikos after undergoing medical tests. The Athens club wants him to replace Michalis Constantinou, who is seeking a transfer. The 29-year-old striker, expected to sign a three-year contract with the Greek runners-up, admitted that his solid showing at the Confederations Cup contributed to the interest expressed by Panathinaikos. Tournament helped «My performances at the Confederations Cup obviously helped. I’ve come here for hard work. I want to win titles with Panathinaikos and will do my best to score lots of goals,» he told reporters. «Panathinaikos is a great team, with a reputation in Europe as a result of reaching the Champions League’s semifinals in 1996,» the Australian added. With two goals against Germany and another two against Argentina, Aloisi stood out as one of Australia’s top performers in the Confederations Cup. Prior to this latest move, Aloisi had spent four seasons with Spanish first-division club Osasuna. Aloisi moved to Europe as a 16-year-old to join Belgian club Standard Liege. He has also played with Antwerp, Cremonese, Portsmouth, and Coventry City. Playing almost two seasons with Cremonese in Italy, Aloisi managed to score 14 league goals. During his one-and-a-half seasons with Portsmouth, Aloisi tallied 25 goals. The striker’s next move, to Coventry City in 1999, was less successful, mainly due to injuries. But the move to Osasuna in the 2001/02 season helped to revitalize the player’s career. Aloisi held down a regular starting position and scored some important goals with the Pamplona club. Wider interest Before agreeing to join Panathinaikos, Aloisi had been approached by his former club Portsmouth. The player’s contract with Osasuna had expired just days ahead of the Confederations Cup. Portsmouth’s chairman Milan Mandaric had recently told BBC Radio that Aloisi was one of his team’s «targets» for the coming season. However, the Australian opted to move to Panathinaikos, figuring the Athens club’s involvement in the new season’s Champions League would provide greater challenge. As the runner-up in last season’s Greek league, Panathinaikos will need to get through a qualifier late this summer for a berth in the lucrative competition’s group phase. Happy return «I’m glad to be back in Athens after the Olympic Games. I have a good impression of the place,» Aloisi said. It is believed that several European clubs were interested in signing Aloisi after being impressed by his performances against some of the world’s best defenders in the Confederations Cup. Nicknamed «the Kangaroo» by fans in Spain, Aloisi was one of Australia coach Frank Farina’s three over-age inclusions on the Olympic side for the Athens Olympics tournament last summer. After a hesitant opening game against Tunisia, the 6-foot striker scored three goals against Serbia and Montenegro, which accounted for half the total number of goals scored by the Australians in the tournament.