AEK starts planning early

Already making plans for next season with a round of play remaining in the Greek Super League, AEK soccer club, which has secured second place and a berth for the Champions League’s pre-group qualifiers, announced yesterday that it had signed Argentinean defender Rodolfo Arruabarrena to a two-year contract with an option for an additional season. The 32-year-old Argentine, who has spent the past six years with Spanish club Villarreal, has represented his country on four occasions. «I’m very glad to be commencing work with AEK. I know that this is a club with an extensive history and one that has developed greatly in recent years,» said Arruabarrena. «The discussions held with [AEK’s Spanish] coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer and the club’s president Demis Nikolaidis were instrumental in my decision to continue my career at AEK.» Financial mismanagement by previous administrations posed a serious threat to the Athens club’s professional status a couple of seasons ago. But Nikolaidis, a former star striker at the club and a committed fan, spearheaded a team of investors for a takeover three years ago that saved the historic club from relegation to amateur competition. Arruabarrena made his professional debut in 1993 with Argentinean club Boca Juniors, winning two league titles during his tenure. He moved to Spanish team Villarreal in 2000, where the defender holds a club record of 178 first division appearances. At Villarreal, Arruabarrena won the UEFA Intertoto Cup twice, in 2003 and 2004. Goals by the Argentine in last season’s Champions League helped take Villarreal all the way to the competition’s semifinals. It was the Spanish team’s first season in the Champions League. Also yesterday, Xanthi, mid-table in the Greek Super League, said it had signed Norwegian coach Jorn Andersen to a two-year contract. The 44-year-old coach began his career as a player in Norway before continuing in Germany and ending up in Switzerland. Andersen’s first coaching job was with Swiss club Lucerne. Along with Andersen, Xanthi has also hired former player and coach Hannes Bongartz as sports director.