Aris defender is bone of contention

Just a few days after the national soccer team’s emptyhanded return to Greece from Euro 2008, interest is now focused entirely on the transfer market. The market is abuzz with rumors about trips to Spain by Panathinaikos and Olympiakos officials in order to acquire star players such as Argentine midfielder Pablo Aimar for the Greens and Spaniard Santi Ezquerro for the Reds. Yet the player who has stirred the waters most domestically is Aris’s central defender Avraam Papadopoulos, who has yet to agree with the cup finalists on an extension to his contract. His meeting with club president Lambros Skordas came to nothing yesterday as the player rejected an offer of 2 million euros over the next five years that Skordas had tabled. He still has one year left in his contract. Olympiakos issued a statement yesterday suggesting that since Aris rejected the champion’s offer for Papadopoulos, it will not interfere with the renewal of the player’s contract but will follow developments from a distance instead. The Piraeus club is also worried about reports suggesting a sudden interest in the player from Panathinaikos, which has already snatched PAOK’s Lazaros Christodoulopoulos – just before he was to sign with the Reds. Separately, 21-year-old German midfielder Denis Epstein is set to travel to Thessaloniki today to sign a contract with Iraklis.