SPORTS

AEK signs snubbed midfielder

Midfielder Pantelis Kafes, who had fallen out of favor at league frontrunner Olympiakos, transferred to AEK on a two-and-a-half year contract, the club announced yesterday. It is believed that, as part of the deal, the club will maintain the option of either terminating the contract at the end of this season or carrying on for the remaining two years. Kafes’s annual fees were worth -300,000 and half that amount for the remainder of this season, reports said. «I really wanted this,» said Kafes in his first public remarks following the transfer’s announcement. Kafes had first emerged in the country’s top-tier league with Thessaloniki club PAOK early in 1997 and was instrumental in the club’s cup triumph in 2001. He joined Olympiakos for the 2003-04 season after PAOK’s poor finances prompted a dispute between the player and club over unpaid fees. PAOK was apparently interested in signing its former player again but the club’s limited budget acted as a restraint on its intentions. It was initially disclosed late last week that Kafes – a talented and creative defensive midfielder who is a regular choice for the Greek national squad, mostly as a peripheral member – and AEK’s administration had begun negotiating a possible deal. Kafes joined the AEK squad in yesterday’s training session and is expected to be selected for his new team’s vital clash against his old club this weekend. AEK’s title aspirations were seriously hampered on Sunday by a 1-1 away draw against Thessaloniki team Iraklis that increased the gap separating it from frontrunner Olympiakos to eight points. Looking forward to this weekend’s top-end clash, AEK was hoping for a win in Thessaloniki, which would have kept the leader with a more reachable distance of six points. Subsequently, AEK faces no other choice but victory if the club is to maintain its chances for the league title. The Super League is now just over the half-way mark. «Our next game,» AEK’s coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer declared yesterday, «will determine our objectives for the remainder of this season.»