Tough words from new boss

PAOK’s prospective new boss, Yiannis Kambanis, an Argentina-based Greek shipowner whose takeover of the financially troubled Thessaloniki club is expected to become official this week, perhaps even by tomorrow, is quickly settling into his anticipated new role without fear of controversy. Following a meeting in Athens yesterday with his predecessor Yiannis Goumenos and other club officials for talks on the takeover’s details, Kambanis made clear his intentions for a shape-up-or-ship-out policy once at the helm. Much of the weight of his forceful remarks was unloaded on team captain Thodoris Zagorakis, who joined PAOK shortly after leading Greece to its Euro 2004 triumph in Portugal. Kambanis said the issue of whether Zagorakis, the national team’s aging but inspirational captain, would be kept or not, was one that would be immediately dealt with. «We’re going to look at it from the start. I’m going to decide whether he will remain at PAOK, and I’m going to base my decision on the club’s interests, even if that means departure. He’s going to have to pass tests,» said Kambanis, while adding that Zagorakis would need to prove himself on the ground, not at nightclubs. The team captain’s contract at PAOK has another season to go. The arrival of the national team’s captain at PAOK had excited fans and lifted the team’s expectations for a brighter future. PAOK, Thessaloniki’s biggest club, traditionally exists under the shadows of Olympiakos and Panathinaikos. PAOK ended sixth in last season’s standings for a UEFA Cup berth, but the club’s financial woes deprived it of its place in the competition. Just days ago, European soccer’s governing body UEFA ousted the team from the competition after it failed to provide required financial guarantees on time. The 60-year-old Kambanis, who is expected in Thessaloniki tomorrow, has reportedly injected 1.5 million euros of emergency funds into PAOK. The club’s star player, striker Dimitris Salpiggidis, last season’s top scorer in the Greek first division, and Ifeani Udeze have both taken legal action against PAOK for unpaid fees, pushing for either payment or release. But both now appear to have been appeased by Kambanis’s opening financial gesture. As for Zagorakis, he has opted to remain silent for the time being, following yesterday’s firm remarks from Kambanis.

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