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Panathinaikos “sold” a football player who failed to improve

by | Aug 27, 2022

Vassilis Sambrakos looks at the performance of Sotiris Alexandropoulos over the last 3 years and explains why Panathinaikos failed to improve a great talent, and why Sporting Lisbon is buying him.

You don’t need to think too much and do a deep analysis to realize that the sale of Sotiris Alexandropoulos to Sporting Lisbonis a successful business move for Panathinaikos. He is selling expensively an almost 21-year-old Greek central midfielder who does not have many European appearances and has not established himself in the National Team. In the eyes of someone aware of the metrics the European football market uses to weigh up a footballer’s market value, the move looks like a success by definition – so one has to credit both Panathinaikos and Alexandropoulos’ agent for closing a bargain, for the Greek club and for the footballer, an agreement. And the benefits of Panathinaikos are not limited to the amount that will enter the coffers of PAE “today” and “tomorrow”, because one must also take into account the marketing value: Panathinaikos creates the reputation of producing high-quality footballers from its infrastructure . And this reputation is needed by a Greek club that envisions entering an operating era in which it will generate surpluses and sell footballers in order to grow this source of income to finance its development. Panathinaikos is working to develop the talent it gathers in its development departments and the sale of Alexandropoulos will give courage to those working in the infrastructure and encourage those who make decisions about the promotion of players from those departments.

The question of the next day is related to whether or not Panathinaikos could keep and develop Alexandropoulos more in order to win more, in competitive terms, from him on the field and then sell him for a higher price. A look at the performance data of Alexandropoulos during the last 3 years through Wyscout leads to the conclusion that the Greek midfielder did not develop in the elements of his game. 70 actions per match with 60.3% success in 2019-’20 became 68.6 with 60.5% success in 2021-’22. 85.6% passing accuracy in ’19-’20 became 85.5% in ’21-’22. 6 passes in the attacking third with 73% accuracy became 4.6 passes with 73% accuracy. 0.39 shots per game became 0.32 shots per game. 0.2 shot assists per match became 0. 3 shot assists per match. Evaluating the progress, you are left with the feeling that Alexandropoulos did not get better in the attacking phase and remained at the same levels. You reach the same conclusion when you look at his efficiency in the defensive phase. Fewer steals last season (4.9) than in ’19-‘ (6.8 per game). Fewer defensive duels (6.5 per match) compared to the ’19-’20 season (8.4) and without spectacularly raising the efficiency (.51.4% – 55.9%).

In these three years, Alexandropoulos obviously became better thanks to the performances, the experiences. He won both cognitively and mentally and spiritually. But he didn’t manage to improve spectacularly, and this is obviously also due to the fact that Panathinaikos suffered with constant changes of coaches – in three years he changed 4 “permanent” coaches and worked twice with a temporary one. In order to develop, a soccer player must work with an improvement plan. And this plan must be monitored by a coach, who sets clear and “measurable” goals in order to periodically check the progress of the work and conclude if there is progress or if a football player remains stagnant. That’s the only way it happens.

And here is the bottom line: a coach who feels such pressure to “bring” the results that will “keep” him, where can he find mind, time, mood and “comfort” to focus on the work for the improvement of young footballers? He had repeated it several times during the previous season, that the team needs results and therefore needs “ready” players. Panathinaikos did well to sell, with such a good deal, a footballer who could not develop. The vision of the next day is to create a plan that will allow him to reach the day when he will not be “burnt” only or mainly for the result of Sunday and will be able, because he will have a stable training staff, to work on the development of the of his young footballers.

I happened to be on the Avenue several times during the last year. Even with a single visit, one could easily perceive the bond of the friends of Panathinaikos with a “child of theirs” that they saw on the field. The bond between the Greek football fan and the Greek football player, when strengthened, is of inestimable value to a club because it strengthens the bond between the team and its fan. Who doesn’t know that? Panathinaikos obviously did well to give one of their own kids a chance to taste football and improve by getting international performances. And this is what he must do, if he wants to live well and in financial terms. His next goal, however, should be to be able to “enjoy” more, in competitive terms, the children he will take out of his infrastructure.

If anyone has the question about “why” Sporting should buy Alexandropoulos, the information that he is compatible with the elements that their coach wants the central midfielder to possess is sufficient. With his “last year” performance, Alexandropoulos would be one of the best defensive midfielders in the Portuguese league in attacking duels, dribbling and attacking actions (performance comparison data source: Comparisonator).

Sporting buys him in order to work on his improvement and in order to take advantage of his main advantages in order to “get” his competitive contribution from him on the one hand and on the other hand to show him “polished” in the European market and make a profit from his resale .

PS This transfer is also a justification for the “quiet” Vassilis Lakis for all this work he has been doing for about 20 years at his academy. It is not a little for a private academy to “produce” a child who today will belong to a European club of the Champions League level.

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