SPORTS

Castillo completes transfer

Mexican striker Nery Castillo has completed his move from Greek champions Olympiakos to Shakhtar Donetsk, the Ukrainian side announced yesterday. The 23-year-old, who has been with Olympiakos for seven years, signed a five-year deal in a move reported to be worth 20 million euros, making it the most expensive transfer ever involving a Greek club. It ranks as the 13th most lucrative on European soccer’s transfer market this season and exceeds the 14-million-euro figure spent by Barcelona to acquire French superstar Thierry Henry from Arsenal. Henry turns 30 this month. Castillo, whose contract with Olympiakos was due to expire in 2010, will reportedly earn 2.3 million euros per year. The Piraeus club collected 16 million euros from the deal. «The offer was very big and every player has his price,» Olympiakos sporting director Ilia Ivic said. Castillo scored four goals to help Mexico finish third in the Copa America which ended earlier this month. He went into the tournament having helped Olympiakos clinch its 10th Greek league title in 11 seasons with 12 goals. Castillo is expected to make his debut performance with Shakhtar Donetsk on August 11 against Vorskla Poltava in the fifth round of play in Ukraine’s top-tier league. Three rounds into the new season, Shakhtar Donetsk lies second on seven points. The deal’s unprecedented worth – for Greek standards – provides Olympiakos with an opportunity to figure as a drawcard on the international transfer market. To the frustration of the club’s fans, Olympiakos has failed to transfer its domestic dominance of the past decade to the Champions League. The club’s string of failures in Europe have repeatedly served as a reminder that the team needs to greatly bolster the quality of its squad for any chance at Champions League success. Olympiakos’s managing director, Petros Kokkalis, said the club’s sale of Castillo was unanticipated. «It wasn’t planned. It just happened. Castillo’s transfer reshapes our plans. Shakhtar Donetsk’s offer for Nery was the only one that satisfied us,» said Kokkalis, who returned yesterday with the Piraeus club’s squad from its pre-season preparations in Austria. «We offered him double his previous fees. We didn’t want to sell him but as soon as the offer from Shakhtar Donetsk came through, we considered it appropriate for him to decide.» Kokkalis said he was not in any position to specify on the club’s next moves in the transfer market. «We can’t talk about the number of players, nor names,» said Kokkalis, who added that Ivic, the team’s sporting director, and Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis were currently examining their roster’s state and market. Meanwhile, Athens club AEK, last season’s league runner-up, is reportedly close to signing Argentinean striker Ismael Blanco, the top scorer in Argentina’s second division last season with Olimpo, now promoted to the top league. Blanco was on loan from first-division club Colon de Santa Fe, which has reportedly agreed to sell the player to AEK for 1.2 million euros. Details over the deal’s installments remain to be settled, reports said. (Kathimerini/Reuters)