Free-roaming defender to end his career where it all started

Olympiakos defender Grigoris Georgatos – who established himself at the Piraeus club, then switched to Italy’s Serie A for two successful tenures at Inter Milan before eventually settling here – yesterday renewed his contract with the Greek front-runner until the summer of 2007, when the 33-year-old said he will retire. «Yes, I will stop. I’d said that I want to play for another year. I want to stop playing while still at a decent level,» the long-serving player said. The Piraeus club announced the player’s contract renewal yesterday after both its administration and coach Trond Sollied agreed to carry on working with the defender. The player’s new contract will run from June 1 this year through June 30, 2007. Financial details were not disclosed. A free-roaming defender on the pitch, Georgatos has been just as adventurous off it, in the transfer market, beginning in the summer of 1999, when he was snapped up by leading Italian club Inter Milan. Georgatos met Serie A’s higher standards to secure a regular starting place and figure as one of his new club’s more formidable team members. The success in Italy, though, did not erase Georgatos’s memories of Greece. The player surprised all by declaring that he was homesick before returning to Olympiakos. Quite sensationally, he went back to Inter Milan not long after for a second tenure and then returned to Greece to join AEK in the summer of 2002. He had signed a three-year contract with his new Greek club but broke it prematurely to switch back to Olympiakos – where he established himself professionally – late in 2003. At the time, he described the return to Piraeus as a homecoming. Georgatos lost his place on Greece’s national team not long after the arrival of coach Otto Rehhagel in 2001. The German coach, who took over an undisciplined national team in shambles and eventually led it to international soccer’s most unanticipated success story, the European title in 2004, fired Georgatos from the squad after the player rebelled by saying that he no longer felt like playing for Greece. At the time, there was no sign of what lay in store for the national team, both in its successful Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, and the eventual title triumph in Portugal. The player’s choice to speak out and lose his place must have surely reverberated in his mind while watching his former teammates stun the entire sporting world. Rehhagel, commenting Wednesday night on German television, where he was invited to comment on Champions League quarterfinal play, did not rule out the possibility of eventually coaching in his home country again. Responding to questions posed by journalists on German TV channel Premiere, Rehhagel, who recently extended his contract with Greece for two further years, said he had received offers by German clubs last December. «I received offers by certain clubs in December but don’t want to reveal them,» said Rehhagel, who had rejected an offer to take over the German national side shortly after his Euro 2004 triumph with Greece. «But I have a contract with the Greek national team and have promised to honor it. I don’t know what will happen when it expires. You can never be certain in soccer. Who knows, maybe I’ll return to the Bundesliga. I’m still young,» the 68-year-old added.

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