AEK’s captain transfers to Olympiakos on two-year deal

Olympiakos basketball club, a former domestic and European power seeking to bolster its roster ahead of the new season, announced yesterday it had signed AEK guard Nikos Hatzis to a two-year contract. The 29-year-old player, who spent an entire decade with AEK and was captain of the team for the latter part of his tenure, still had a year left to serve on his previous contract. But AEK said it had decided to let Hatzis go without any restraint or demands as acknowledgement of his decade-long association with the club. Hatzis’s new contract at Olympiakos is reportedly worth 400,000 euros per year, slightly over the 375,000 he was expected to earn for the upcoming season with AEK. «After a full 10 years, a significant part of my life now belongs to the past,» Hatzis noted on AEK’s official website. «AEK will always make up a big part of my heart, and I wish the team the best of luck in the future.» During his 10 years with AEK, Hatzis led the club to one Greek league title, in the 2001-02 season, as captain of the side. Panathinaikos and the player’s new club, Olympiakos, have raked in all other domestic league titles over the past decade. Hatzis came close to a second league title with AEK last season, but the Athens club was defeated by Panathinaikos in the final’s best-of-five playoff series with a 3-1 score. Renowned for his tough play, Hatzis, who stands at 1.94 meters, is also capable of scoring. At AEK, more recently, he had formed a fruitful working relationship with fellow guard Nikos Zysis, one of the club’s talented younger players. Hatzis was a member of the Greek team that won the World Youth Championships in 1995. AEK’s president, Ioannis Philippou, the CEO of dairy products giant Fage, is expected to place some of his basketball club’s players on the transfer market as part of a wider plan to reduce the club’s budget. After peaking in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the popularity of basketball in Greece has since plummeted. Lower attendance figures and television ratings have severely affected the operations of most clubs.

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