Fatih Terim, the 'Emperor’ of Turkish soccer, shakes up Greek league

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Seeking a bonus to his storied career as a player and coach in Turkey, Fatih Terim is facing his next challenge in neighboring Greece.

The restless 70-year-old took charge of Panathinaikos at the new year and his team next plays PAOK in Thessaloniki on Sunday. The two teams currently top the Super League with 44 points from 19 matches.

Terim, a former Turkey national team coach who won eight championship titles as manager at Galatasaray, earned the nickname “Emperor” for his serial successes.

He’s made an immediate impact in Athens, winning three league matches, holding title contender AEK Athens 2-2 at home and knocking Olympiakos out of the Greek Cup.

In the January window, Terim signed Greece captain Tassos Bakasetas and secured loan deals to shore up Panathinaikos’ defense with Turkey international Samet Akaydin and Poland goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski.

All three played midweek in the first leg of the Greek Cup quarterfinals at Atromitos, in western Athens. Panathinaikos dominated but lost its first game this year, 2-1.

Α little uncharacteristically, Terim shrugged off the result.

“As long as Panathinaikos plays like that, no one should get upset. We will not fear PAOK,” he said after the match, acknowledging that players may have been distracted by their upcoming trip north.

In Athens, Terim has taken care to avoid any comment on the often-strained relations between Greece and his native Turkey.

His high-profile move comes amid a thaw in relations between the two neighbors, who agreed last year to set aside long-standing disputes over illegal migration into the European Union and disputed sea boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself a semi-professional soccer player in his youth, telephoned Terim after he landed in Athens in late December to wish him luck.

In-form PAOK, hoping to repeat its successful title run in 2019, will be missing injured Portuguese captain Vieirinha as well as defender William Troost-Ekong and forward Mbwana Samatta at the African Cup.

Consistently outspent by its rivals, Panathinaikos hasn’t won a Greek league title since 2010.

“Fourteen years is a long time,” Terim told reporters after his arrival. “But the same thing happened (when I took over) at Galatasaray — until we beat everybody.” ___

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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