In a shock development, Olympiakos announced on Friday that they will not renew the club’s contract with Spanish manager Ernesto Valverde, who led the team to a domestic double this season.
The Greek media has speculated on Valverde’s reappointment for weeks, and it appeared the saga would end after Olympiakos captured the Greek Cup in such dramatic circumstances against AEK.
Olympiakos president Socrates Kokkalis issued a statement telling the media in early April that a deal with Valverde was all but complete. The Spaniard then presumably incensed Kokkalis when he alluded to the fact that the deal was far from complete while addressing the players ahead of the Cup final.
The Spanish media has also fuelled the speculation, indicating interest in Valverde from Spanish clubs including Atletico Madrid and Sevilla.
But in the official statement issued after the end of Olympiakos’ governing board’s meeting on Friday afternoon, the reds confirmed that the Spaniard’s stay on the Olympiakos bench is coming to a close.
“Following Ernesto Valverde’s non-acceptance 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.
Valverde will probably see his contract out. This ends on June 30, meaning the Spaniard will likely lead Olympiakos’ 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 favourite 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.
Ketsbaia is likely to bring along two of his closest assistants from his time at Anorthosis, a Georgian coach and a Cypriot trainer. Ketsbaia knows the Greek scene well, from his well-publicised stint at AEK in the 90’s.
Had Valverde stayed on Olympiakos 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 Olympiakos hardcore fans, who will no-doubt voice their opposition to hiring a cut-price coach to replace a manager who has even led a team (Espanyol) to a UEFA Cup final.