Argentines grow in numbers

In terms of numbers, Brazilian soccer players have been the dominant Latin American group in Greek soccer in recent years, but the latest transfer activity indicates a growing preference for Argentines. Greek champion Olympiakos and runner-up AEK, hoping to go one better in the new season, have signed two Argentineans each in the pre-season transfer market. AEK led the way early last month by signing 32-year-old left-back Rodolfo Arruabarrena from Spanish club Villarreal, where he had spent six seasons. Earlier this week, AEK announced its acquisition of a second Argentine, 23-year-old central defender Fererico Xavier Azcarate of Atletico Madrid on a four-year contract. At approximately the same time, Olympiakos signed 27-year-old Luciano Galetti, also from Atletico Madrid. He joined compatriot Leonel Nunez, who moved to Olympiakos just days after the Piraeus club announced that it had signed 23-year-old striker Leonel Nunez of Argentinos Juniors. This quartet joins two earlier Argentinean arrivals, Ezequiel Gonzalez and Sebastian Romero, both at Panathinaikos. AEK’s aquisition of Azcarate is the Athens club’s third recent signing following the signings of veteran Brazil midfielder Rivaldo and Arruabarrena. «It’s a great honor for me to play alongside these players,» Azcarate said after signing with AEK. As runner-up in last season’s Super League, AEK will need to get past a home-and-away Champions League qualifier – late in August – for a group berth in Europe’s leading club-level competition. The Athens team, which narrowly escaped bankruptcy and a drop to amateur competition three seasons ago after former club player Demis Nikolaidis spearheaded a team of investors for a takeover of the troubled club, is also aiming for the Greek league title in the new season. AEK last won the Greek league title in 1994, one of three in a row.

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