Former Porto and Malaga soccer manager Jesualdo Ferreira emerged as the favorite to take over at champion Panathinaikos, following the departure of Greek coach Nikos Nioplias on Monday. Nioplias agreed to end his contract with Panathinaikos after another home draw (1-1 with Larissa) and losing control of the locker room and the support of fans and the board. With the match against Barcelona at home for the Champions League less than a week away, Panathinaikos is desperate to find Nioplias’s successor as soon as possible and is searching Europe-wide, starting with Ferreira. The Portuguese coach has become the front-runner in the race for the job at the Greens after a positive meeting in Spain with Panathinaikos executives Costas Antoniou and Carlos Freitas on Tuesday. Speaking yesterday to Portuguese television, the 64-year-old manager said he has agreed with Panathinaikos to an 18-month contract and the decision now rests with the Greek club’s president, Nikolas Pateras. «The aim is for Panathinaikos to win the league. I have accepted the proposal because Panathinaikos has good chances of winning the league, otherwise I would not have done it,» said Ferreira, who was recently sacked by Malaga. Yesterday Antoniou and Freitas met with ex-Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini in Italy. Other candidates include Mexican Javier Aguirre and Frenchman Paul Le Guen. Across town, Panionios owner Constantinos Tsakiris has created a storm at Nea Smyrni as he has decided to sell the club to a group of entrepreneurs close to Kavala owner Makis Psomiadis. At Monday’s general meeting, Tsakiris replaced the board that resigned on Saturday with a nine-member group of his employees who will see to it that the club’s shares are passed on to the new owners, for the reported price of 1.5 million euros. Controversial businessman Psomiadis is seen as a persona non grata at Nea Smyrni due to his previous chairmanship at crosstown rival AEK. He has had no association with Panionios, but Tsakiris tried to appease angry Panionios fans on Monday by telling them, «He’s not so bad.» Reports suggest, however, that Panayiotis Bitsaxis, the country’s general secretary for sports, might intervene and prevent Psomiadis from ownership in two clubs, even indirectly. Panionios’s amateur division convened yesterday and is mulling not conceding the Nea Smyrni ground it owns to Psomiadis for the club’s home games. Manager Georgios Paraschos has also tendered his resignation, after having agreed to sit on the Panionios bench just a week earlier.