A taste of the premiership

Super League clubs are trying to raise the quality of the local soccer championship by signing well-known players from abroad who have featured in some of Europe’s top leagues. Champion Olympiakos announced yesterday the signing of Sweden central defender Olof Mellberg from Juventus for a reported fee of 2.5 million euros. The former Aston Villa star signed a three-year contract on Monday. Also yesterday Olympiakos confirmed the permanent signing of former England Under-21 striker Matt Derbyshire from Blackburn Rovers. The 23-year-old player spent the last six months at Olympiakos on loan from Blackburn and helped the Reds complete their domestic double by scoring twice in the Greek Cup final last month. He has signed a four-year contract. Another former Premier League player came to Greece yesterday as Panionios secured the services of Croatian striker Bosko Balaban, formerly of Aston Villa and Club Brugge. The 30-year-old player agreed to sign a three-year contract with the Nea Smyrni club and passed his medical tests. Balaban, who belonged to Dinamo Zagreb, has 45 caps with Croatia and has scored 20 goals. Panathinaikos is likely to announce today the signing of Greece defensive midfielder Costas Katsouranis from Benfica. The Greens will reportedly pay 2.5 million euros to the Portuguese side as well as 1 million to AEK, his former club so as to strengthen its midfield. Technical director Costas Antoniou was reported yesterday to be in England to tie up at least one more deal. Liverpool-owned Sebastian Leto, who spent last year on loan at Olympiakos, stated on Monday that the chances of him moving to Panathinaikos are 90 percent. AEK and Panionios have reached an agreement for the transfer of defensive midfielder Grigoris Makos to AEK, a transfer saga that has lasted for just under a month. AEK is also eyeing the Brazilian striker Leonardo of Levadiakos. After the noisy reception for Uruguay striker Sebastian Abreu, when 6,000 fans waited for him at Macedonia Airport last Friday, Aris is preparing to conclude the signing of Argentine defender Cristian Nasuti from Banfield. Finally, former Xanthi striker Haris Pappas is crossing the border to move to German second-division club TSV Munich 1860.