Green stars lose their shine

Panathinaikos soccer club saw its first day of training for the new season overshadowed by the news of the imminent departure of South Africa defender Nassif Morris and Greece striker Dimitris Papadopoulos. While most Panathinaikos players were undergoing medical tests yesterday morning ahead of the start of pre-season training in the evening, technical director Costas Antoniou informed the two players they they are not in the new coach’s plans and should go out and find a new club. Both players are still contracted to Panathinaikos – Papadopoulos until June 2009 and Morris until June 2010. While Papadopoulos had already realized he was not going to remain with the club he has played for the last four years and was actively searching for another team through his agent, the news has come as a big surprise to Morris. The pair were among the players often used as scapegoats for the team’s failures in the league and cup last season, although they did contribute to Panathinaikos’s improvement in the playoffs when the Greens qualified for the Champions League. Also yesterday the Super League runners-up announced the acquisition of attacking midfielder Lazaros Christo-doulopoulos from PAOK, while club president Nikos Pateras said the Greens are pulling out of the race to sign Argentine midfielder Pablo Aimar from Real Zaragoza. On Tuesday Panathinaikos will learn who its opponent will be in the second qualifying round of the Champions League, to be played next month in home-and-away legs. The squad will remain through July 6 at their training center at Paeania and then fly to Austria for the main stage of their pre-season training. They will play three friendly games in Austria, facing Poland’s Gornik on July 9, Romania’s Cluj on July 13 and the Czech Republic’s Banik Ostrava on July 17. The team will return to Greece on July 21. Olympiakos signs Gonzalez Oscar Gonzalez has completed his transfer from Real Zaragoza to Olympiakos. He will sign a three-year contract with the Greek champions, the Piraeus club announced yesterday, and will help boost the midfield with the creative play that made him a favorite, particularly among Real Valladolid fans, in the past. The Reds have paid 2 million euros to his old club and offered him an annual salary of 650,000 euros. Oscar Gonzalez Marcos was born in Salamanca on November 12, 1982. He played at Valladolid from 2001 to 2004 and then moved to Zaragoza. The next target for Olympiakos is Aldo Duscher. The Argentinean defensive midfielder of Racing Santander is 29 years old and has four international caps. He holds an Austrian passport and last year he was an AEK target. Sevilla’s Portuguese midfielder Sergio Barbosa Duda is another option for the champions.