Aris signs Gracian, Nafti

Aris is trying to match crosstown soccer rival PAOK in its transfer moves, after signing two foreign stars and aiming at a third, compared to the five new players PAOK has secured from last week. French-born Tunisian soccer player Mehdi Nafti agreed to swap Birmingham City for Aris, with the Thessaloniki club announcing on Saturday that the two sides have signed a two-year contract. Nafti spent the last four years at Birmingham and became a regular after recovering from a serious cruciate ligament injury in the 2005-2006 period. «I have heard about the passion of Aris fans and I cannot wait to play in front of them,» said the Tunisian. The 30-year-old defensive midfielder is the second transfer move by Aris this season after the acquisition of Argentine Leandro Gracian, who came to Greece last Friday amid a rapturous reception. Apparently Aris’s next and biggest move this summer will be the signing of Uruguay striker Sebastian Abreu. At the end of Uruguay’s unfortunate game against Brazil in Montevideo last Saturday, Abreu answered a reporter’s question by saying he has agreed to continue his career with Aris and will come to Greece once his obligations with Spain’s Real Sociedad are over for the season. In Athens, champion Olympiakos heard Turkish side Besiktas reject the Piraeus club’s offer for Brazilian striker Bobo, asking for more money, while Panathinaikos is eyeing Inter’s Argentine striker Julio Cruz and Barcelona’s transfer-listed scorer Eidur Gudjohnsen. U-21 victory Genoa defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos gave the Greek Under-21 team a precious away win over Lithuania (1-0) on Saturday. Greece was the better side throughout the game and should have taken the lead earlier, but had to wait until the 76th minute to score the winning goal. A cross by Elini Dimoutsos from the right was not cleared properly by the Lithuanian goalkeeper – the ball went into the path of Papastathopoulos, who had no problem slotting it into the net, sparking frenzied celebrations in the Greek camp. Greece now has two wins in as many games in its European Championship qualifying group and its next match is at home against England on September 8.