Panathinaikos are one of Greece’s biggest clubs, who have represented the country well in both the Champions League and the Europa League.
So, when it was announced that the Greens would start the season on -6 points due to financial issues, and only being able to sign one player over the age of 23, fears about relegation arose.
There was an exodus of players, with former players requesting their unpaid wages. Last season, six points were also deducted for financial reasons, in addition to the two-point deduction for fan violence.
A total of 24 players departed the club throughout the course of last season, a horrible reminder of the club’s woes. In addition, manager Marinos Ouzonidis left at the end of the season.
It was also announced last season that the club would be banned from UEFA club competitions for the next three years, due to breaching financial rules.
Facing a crisis, Panathinaikos decided to opt for youth, signing a range of Greek youngsters playing all around the world. They hired Giorgos Donis as manager, who returned to the club that he played 107 games for.
Notable signings included former Arsenal youth player Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, former Real Madrid B player Nikos Vergos and Borussia Dortmund youngster Argyris Kampetsis. Former Manchester United player Federico Macheda joined as their sole over-23 signing.
The club also called upon several players from their youth academy.
Many expected the youthful side to struggle and Panathinaikos were hotly tipped for relegation. However, the Greens have defied all expectations.
The club has the won their opening five games of the Greek Superleague season and were successful in their first Greek Cup match.
Without a points deduction, Panathinaikos would currently be two points clear at top of the table. That is remarkable for a club that have been restricted to predominantly youth players.
Youth academy product Giannis Bouzoukis started the season on fire, scoring two goals in the first two games. 17-year-old Dimitrios Emmanouilidis and 21-year-old Tasos Chatzigiovanis, both from the club’s youth academy, have also impressed for the Greens.
It will be an interesting period for Panathinaikos, with clashes against rivals Olympiakos, PAOK and AEK Athens taking place over the next two months. They will get a chance against the country’s strongest teams, and if they manage a result again either of these sides, excitement will continue to grow amongst the fans.
It is still early days, however the signs are looking bright at Panathinaikos in what is a dark period. A lot of positives can come out of their struggles which can set them up for the future. The Greek national team should also benefit from this remarkable situation.
The club, who have had some memorable moments in European club football, and who have a rich history, look to be getting back onto its feet. The fans have every right to have hope and be excited.