SPORTS

Valverde’s new contract

Olympiakos intends to renew soccer coach Ernesto Valverde’s contract for one more year after the successful start to the domestic season the champion club has enjoyed. The Spanish coach has won over one of the most demanding set of fans in Europe, as well as the board and the players, so he is likely to sign a new deal with the club in January. «Indeed I have great pressure. When I first joined the club a hotel employee told me that I have the most difficult job in Greece, more difficult that the prime minister’s, too,» Valverde stated recently. His contract provides for a net annual salary of over 1.35 million euros, while bonuses can take the gross figure up to 2 million euros per year. One of Valverde’s latest worries is the health of defensive midfielder Ieroklis Stoltidis. The linchpin of the Reds’ midfield undergoes surgery tomorrow to remedy a longstanding problem with his left ankle. This should keep him out of action for at least two-and-a-half months. That could also alter the transfer strategy of Olympiakos as it may force the Piraeus club to acquire a replacement for the midfielder in the January transfer window. Stoltidis will therefore miss next week’s crucial UEFA Cup tie at home against Hertha Berlin that will decide which of the two advances to the knockout stage of the competition. Late last night Panathinaikos hosted Anorthosis for the deciding match in Group B of the Champions League. Greece striker Fanis Gekas could be a January transfer target after Bayer Leverkusen gave him permission to leave the club. The former Panathinaikos player has already attracted the interest of Karlsruhe and Cologne. Gekas has scored twice in 17 games for the Bundesliga side.