Crisis leads Greek clubs to seek local talent
ATHENS- ReutersThe days of high-profile foreign players joining Greek clubs are over due to the economic crisis and a new era of relying on domestic talent is taking over which is a welcome change for Super League president Giannis Moralis.
The majority of the country’s top flight teams are facing severe hardship as the knock-on effects of the financial crisis have left them in a daily battle for survival.
Super League clubs have almost halved their spending on player contracts this season with even bigger clubs such as AEK Athens and PAOK Thessaloniki making huge cuts to stay afloat.
The financial situation is so acute that only the combined intervention of the Super League and the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) at the last moment helped to avoid the postponement of the start of the season on Aug. 25.
“The crisis has exacerbated the problems for all clubs but I am a firm believer that it has brought us opportunities and the basic and most interesting prospect for Greek football is that we can focus on financial stability and the development of Greek players,” Moralis told Reuters in an interview.
“Certainly this is the most difficult year in the history of the Super League, but from our side we will continue to try to find the best solutions for all 16 teams.”
Greek clubs have had to give younger players a chance, with the average age of Super League squads for the 2012/13 season at an all-time low of 23.9 years.
On the first weekend of the season, 66 percent of players were Greek compared with 50 percent last season, while there has been a 27 percent reduction in foreign players overall.
For the first time since 1990, a match featured teams made up entirely of Greek players as financially-embattled Panionios played Aris Thessaloniki in their opening fixture.
Moralis said the days of overspending on high-profile foreign players like Rivaldo, Djibril Cisse, Gilberto Silva and Eidur Gudjohnsen are over which he welcomes.
“For 10 years the top flight teams have been spending beyond their means and I think the reduction of budgets as a start is an obligatory and correct response,” he said.
“Not perhaps for another five to eight years will we get close to the level of top European leagues.”