Transfer saga likely to end

AEK’s ongoing negotiations with Argentinean soccer club Colon de Santa Fe for the acquisition of 24-year-old striker Ismael Blanco, last season’s top scorer in Argentina’s second division with Olimpo, where the player was on loan, appear to have overcome difficulties that threatened to derail the deal. Latest reports yesterday said the player and officials of the Argentinean club were expected in Athens early today to sign a deal with AEK worth slightly over 1 million euros. AEK’s efforts to acquire the player are part of the club’s final preparations for next week’s crucial first-leg tie of a home-and-away encounter against Sevilla for group play in the new season’s Champions League. AEK travels to Spain for the first leg on August 14 and hosts Sevilla for the return leg a fortnight later. AEK must register its squad for the Champions League by tomorrow, when a deadline set by UEFA, the tournament’s organizer, expires. «All has gone well. I feel glad about this and want to thank the people at the club for the support they’ve shown me all these years,» Blanco was quoted as telling Argentinean radio. Several days ago, Blanco’s transfer was considered all but sealed, and the player was due here to sign yesterday. But, earlier yesterday, with no sign of the Argentinean player and officials in Athens, reports said that the negotiations had stalled because the two sides disagreed about who would cover the deal’s tax and commission expenses, believed to be worth over 300,000 euros. Blanco and Herman Lerce, his club boss at Colon de Santa Fe, both reportedly attributed the impasse to AEK’s handling of the matter. «AEK’s final offer was for about 1.05 million euros, half of it up front and the remainder in September, on the condition that we pay the taxes and commission charges, which amount to over 300,000 euros. I can’t say that the deal’s fallen through, but as things now stand, it will be difficult to complete the transfer. AEK must change its position. If the club doesn’t agree to cover these charges, I’m not getting on a plane for Athens. I’ll travel only if AEK agrees to our conditions,» Lerce was reported as saying when the deal still appeared to be in jeopardy. Although the deal now appears to have been sealed, it remains unclear how the two sides bridged their differences. Greek sports media maintained that the Argentinean club backed down. Besides seeking to boost its striking power up front, AEK, last year’s runner-up in the Greek league, is also interested in Brazilian goalkeeper Jefferson, currently with Turkish club Trabzonspor. After failing to strike a deal to acquire the player from the Turkish club, AEK has now offered a loan deal for one year.