PAOK hires Vukotic as coach

PAOK hired Momcilo Vukotic as its new coach yesterday as the replacement for Ile Dumitrescu, who resigned on October 3 after eight months at the post. The Thessaloniki club did not announce details of the deal but said the 54-year-old Serb would sign a contract in Thessaloniki today. Local reports said Vukotic’s contract is likely to last until the end of the season. It is not the Serb’s first job in Greece. He had coached Panionios in the early 1990s. More recently, he coached Cyprus’s national team before being replaced by Angelos Anastasiadis two years ago, who, incidentally, had just parted ways with PAOK. During his playing days, Vukotic was one of the star players at Partizan Belgrade, where he has also coached, as well as the former Yugoslavia. «I know where I’m coming to and what the standards are at PAOK,» said Vukotic, yesterday, from his Belgrade base. «I know that this team has lofty objectives, and we’ll fight to reach them. It’s a good thing that I won’t need a great deal of time to adjust because I’m aware of the prevailing situation and I know quite a few of the players,» he added. Vukotic will have additional time to prepare, thanks to a break in Greek league competition this weekend because of local elections around the country. During his coaching tenure with the Cypriot national team, where the Serb failed to make impact, Vukotic’s squad included three players currently at PAOK – Constantinos Charalambidis, Ilias Charalambous and Giasemakis Giasoumi. In a more recent coaching job, Vukotic had faired better with Romanian club Farul, which he led to the cup semifinals as well as the Intertoto Cup, a qualifying event for UEFA Cup competition. In another coaching development in Athens, Panathinaikos yesterday presented its new coach, Spaniard Victor Munoz. Commenting on his hiring, Munoz, who reportedly signed a deal worth 600,000 euros for the remainder of this season, noted: «There’s not just great pride attached to this, but great responsibility as well… We all know that it’s a difficult task. That’s why coaches need support from administrations, players, the media, and, naturally, the fans.» Munoz, who replaces the recently hired-and-fired Swede Hans Backe, is the latest in a series of new coaches at Panathinaikos over the past decade, during which the proud Athenian club has won just one league title. Backe, who joined last summer, found himself without a job just a few rounds into the current season. Responding to a question by a reporter, who asked the Spaniard what made him believe he could achieve what his predecessors could not, Munoz replied: «As I’ve already mentioned, this is a tough task. I’ve analyzed the way Panathinaikos plays, its roster, and the Greek league, and believe that this team’s condition can improve with lots of work and time.» Last season, Italian coach Alberto Malesani had spoken about a five-year plan for Panathinaikos. But the volatile nature of Greek soccer, or lack of faith in long-term planning, especially in connection with coaches, prompted Malesani’s departure after a season and a half of service.