Preparing to vie for a place in the Champions League’s lucrative group stage this season, which will be determined in a home-and-away playoff later this month, AEK soccer club took a further step in the pre-season transfer market yesterday by agreeing to a deal with Argentinean striker Ismael Blanco, last season’s top scorer in Argentina’s second division. During the pre-season, the Athens club, last season’s runner-up in the Greek Super League, commented on the need to strengthen its options in attack. AEK will know its opponent for a spot in the Champions League’s group stage, several days from now, when the draw is held by UEFA, the competition’s organizer. Until late last night, a deal for Blanco had yet to be signed, but reports said the player was on standby waiting for the arrangement of minor details before being given the green light by his manager to fly to Athens. «I now know that there’s agreement on all the terms. I’m waiting for a signal from my manager, once all the pending issues have been taken care of, so I can fly to Greece,» said Blanco, who helped Argentinean club Olimpo gain promotion to top-tier competition as the second division’s top scorer last season. Blanco was on loan from first-division club Colon de Santa Fe, which has agreed to sell the striker to AEK for 1.2 million euros, according to reports. AEK’s roster includes last season’s Super League top scorer Nikos Lymberopoulos, the 31-year-old international striker who had been approached by German Bundesliga club Nuremberg earlier this summer to no avail. Argentinean media quoted Colon de Santa Fe coach Leo Astrada as saying that Blanco’s absence from the team would be felt at the club. «If Ismael does leave, we will need to recruit two strikers to cover the gap created by his departure from our team,» Astrada was quoted as saying. AEK, which signed the aging Brazilian star Rivaldo from Greek champions Olympiakos in a highly unanticipated deal not long after the end of last season, is awaiting a final answer regarding the acquisition of another Brazilian, Jefferson, a goalkeeper currently with the Turkish club Trabzonspor.