SPORTS

Valverde packs his bags

Olympiakos announced yesterday that it will not be renewing the club’s contract with Spanish soccer manager Ernesto Valverde, who led the team to a domestic double this season. In the official statement issued after the end of the governing board’s meeting in the afternoon, the champions and cup holders confirmed that the Spaniard’s stay on the Olympiakos bench is coming to a close. »Following Ernesto Valver-de’s nonacceptance of the Olympiakos proposal for extending their cooperation, the governing board has unanimously decided against renewing it,» the statement read. »At any rate, the board thanks Ernesto Valverde for his contribution until today. In a new meeting by the end of May the board will decide on appointing a new manager,» it added. »Ernesto deserved more honesty,» said his agent, Inaki Ibanez, in an interview last night. Valverde will probably see his contract out. This ends next month, meaning the Spaniard will likely lead Olympiakos’s trip to Vietnam for a friendly game with the Asian country’s national team next week. Georgian manager Temuri Ketsbaia has emerged as the strong favorite to take over at Olympiakos. The former Anorthosis Famagusta coach, responsible for ousting Olympiakos from the Champions League last August, has already come to Greece and reportedly agreed with Olympiakos on a one-plus-one-year deal fetching him just 500,000 euros per annum. Other reports put this figure at 700,000 euros. Ketsbaia is likely to bring along two of his closest assistants from his time at Anorthosis, a Georgian coach and a Cypriot trainer. Had Valverde stayed on Olympiakos’s terms he would have cost the Reds at least 1.1 million euros next year. Nevertheless, the possible appointment of relatively inexperienced Ketsbaia has already created a backlash from hardcore Olympiakos fans. They intend to voice their opposition to hiring a cut-price coach, who is also a former AEK Athens player. This opposition will likely to become evident during tonight’s title fiesta at the Karaiskaki Stadium. Olympiakos is organizing a series of events on the day to mark its winning both the league and the cup for the second year in a row, including a friendly game between the men’s and the youth teams lasting 45 minutes.