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Monaco’s Zikos returns to AEK

In what has been described as a surprise development, former Greece midfielder Vassilis Zikos has rejoined AEK following an 102-game career with Monaco. No speculation about the prospective transfer had preceded the deal. The 32-year-old Zikos, a key player in the Monaco team that reached the Champions League final in the 2003-04 season, had fallen out of favor under new Monaco coach Laszlo Boloni. This led to a free transfer to AEK, Zikos’s club between 1998 and 2002. «I have returned to the club of my heart and I will end my playing days here in two years’ time,» Zikos said. AEK, the runner-up in last season’s domestic league, is currently seeking a group place in the forthcoming season’s Champions League. The Athens club leads Scottish club Hearts 2-1 after a first-leg away win in their third qualifying round tie, which leads to group play in the lucrative European club-level competition. The return leg in Athens is scheduled for August 23. Zikos is most likely to fill the gap created by the recent transfer of former AEK captain Costas Katsouranis to Portuguese club Benfica. Acting on the team’s appraisal by AEK’s new coach, Spaniard Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, who wants his front line bolstered, the club’s administration is also seeking to sign a striker. A decision is expected to be announced by tomorrow, when the transfer season expires. Meanwhile, rival Athens club Panathinaikos is reportedly close to acquiring PAOK striker Dimitris Salpigidis, one of the Greek league’s most highly rated players. Reports yesterday said the star player’s Thessaloniki club and Panathinaikos had agreed on the deal’s amount, said to be worth 1.8 million euros, but several side factors still needed to be finalized.