Valverde joins Olympiakos

Ernesto Valverde, who quit RCD Espanyol two days ago, has been appointed Olympiakos coach, the Greek champions said in a statement yesterday. The club did not give any details about the length of the contract, although Greek media claim it is for three years and worth about 4 million euros. The 44-year-old denied reports in mid-May that was about to leave Espanyol to join Olympiakos but speculation mounted again when he quit the Spanish club on Monday, citing a poor atmosphere. «The atmosphere around the club is not the best and this is the best decision, both for me and the club,» said Valverde. Valverde joined Espanyol in 2006 and led the Barcelona-based side to the UEFA Cup final without losing a game in 2007. They drew 2-2 with Seville, but lost in the penalty shootout. The Spaniard has also coached Athletic Bilbao, one of the teams he represented – along with Espanyol and Barcelona – as a player. Caretaker coach Jose Segura, another Spaniard, stepped down after leading Olympiakos to a league-and-cup double. At the national level, Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is sticking with experienced players for the European Championship, despite sharply criticizing their performance after a weekend friendly. Rehhagel yesterday announced his 23-man roster for the tournament, and will rely on a core of players who guided Greece through the qualifiers – led by Bayer Leverkusen striker Fanis Gekas, who had five goals in that campaign. Ten of the players are left from the squad that won Euro 2004 in Portugal, including Mallorca midfielder Angelos Basinas, who will captain the team. Greece plays Sweden, Russia and Spain in Group D in next month’s tournament in Austria and Switzerland. Joining Gekas in attack is Celtic’s Georgios Samaras, Dimitris Salpigidis of Panathinaikos and AEK’s Nikos Lymberopoulos. FC Nuremburg forward Angelos Charisteas, who scored the winning goal against host Portugal in the Euro 2004 final, was also picked. Rehhagel resisted making changes despite a 3-2 defeat to Hungary in a friendly played in Budapest on Saturday. Greece conceded three goals in 16 minutes. «If you don’t sweat, don’t think your opponent will take pity on you,» the German coach said after the game. «If we play like this, we won’t get anywhere… We needed a good slap so that the [players] understand that nothing is ever handed to you.» Rehhagel left out several in-form youngsters, including 18-year-old midfielder Sotiris Ninis, who scored in his Greece debut during a May 19 friendly against Cyprus. Also dropped was 19-year-old AEK defender Socratis Papastathopoulos, who traveled with the squad to Germany for a training camp. Greece plays Armenia in its last warmup game Sunday, before traveling to Salzburg on June 3. Squad: Goalkeepers: Antonis Nikopolidis (Olympiakos), Costas Chalkias (Aris), Alexandros Tzorvas (OFI Crete). Defenders: Paraskevas Antzas (Olympiakos), Giourkas Seitaridis (Atletico Madrid), Loukas Vyntra (Panathinaikos), Vassilis Torossidis (Olympiakos), Sotiris Kyrgiakos (Eintracht Frankfurt), Christos Patsatzoglou (Olympiakos), Traianos Dellas (AEK), Yiannis Goumas (Panathinaikos), Nikos Spiropoulos (Panathinaikos). Midfielders: Costas Katsouranis (Benfica), Angelos Basinas (Real Mallorca), Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Stelios Giannakopoulos (Bolton), Alexandros Tziolis (Panathinaikos), Ioannis Amanatidis (Eintracht Frankfurt). Strikers: Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Dimitris Salpigidis (Panathinaikos), Angelos Charisteas (FC Nuremburg), Fanis Gekas (Bayer Leverkusen), Nikos Lymberopoulos (AEK). (Reuters/AP)