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The locomotive is already beeping: Meet Yorgos Donis, the intended coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv
Charismatic, full of self-confidence, excels at nurturing young people, admires Guardiola's style, shows mental flexibility, insists on doing everything in his path, tends to quarrel with managements and thrives mostly in the underdog position. The career story of Yorgos "The Train" Donis who really likes his nicknameTags
- Yorgos Donis
- Maccabi Tel Aviv in football
Michael YochinSunday, 09 August 2020, 10:00
"I could have become a big star as a footballer, if my coach had been Yorgos Donis," Yorgos Donis declared two years ago. This spectacular sentence sums up quite well the personality of the new Maccabi Tel Aviv coach. Donis' self-esteem is high in every possible way, and he has never doubted his skills - neither on the grass nor on the bench. And frankly, there was no reason to doubt, because he is considered one of the most talented Greek players of his generation, and is now defined by many journalists as the best Greek coach.
Donis experienced the ultimate moment of fame as a midfielder in April 1996, when he drove the Ajax defense crazy in the first game of the Champions League semi-final. The sweeping breakthroughs of the Panathinaikos midfielder almost led to the goal in the first half, but he did not give up in front of the formidable trophy holder, and came on his salary towards the end. Another marvelous run ended in artistic cooking for Polish side Krzysztof and Arzieja, and Panathinaikos stunned Louis van Gaal’s side with 0-1 in Amsterdam. Donis was unstoppable that evening, and in Greece he was nicknamed "the train." Yorgos loved it very much, and even today, when he is already a 50-year-old coach, he is still "the train." And he still wants to feel unstoppable.
In the return match in Athens, Panathinaikos lost 2: 0, but Donis' performance was not in vain. He ignited the imagination of the scouts, received quite a few tempting offers, and joined in the summer of 1996 Blackburn who had won the championship a year earlier. He became the first Greek in the Premier League, it was a dream come true for him, and for that he was willing to sacrifice the good relations with the Greens management and its fans. Donis was one of the first to take advantage of the revolutionary verdict in the trial of Jean-Marc Bosman, and left Panathinaikos without compensation. And if that's not enough, after a rather unsuccessful season at Blackburn, he returned to Athens in the yellow-and-black uniforms of arch-rival AK. Because Donis does everything in his own way, but he does not forget his roots anyway.
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"Donis Babies" in Panathinaikos
22 years after he left slamming a door, he returned to his beloved club which was in a particularly deep crisis. Donis signed as coach of Panathinaikos in the summer of 2018, when the Greens were banned from making transfers at all. The young staff was not perceived as quality to say the least, and quite a few fans seriously feared the danger of relegation, especially in light of the 11-point reduction due to financial irregularities. Donis was not worried. He excited and solidified his players back in pre-season camp, opening the term with five consecutive league wins achieved through an overwhelming offensive style. The Greek media called the phenomenon "Donis babies", similar to Manchester United's "Fergie babies" in the mid-1990s. And maybe the end result was a little less successful compared to Alex Ferguson's red demons, Panathinaikos finished 2018/19 in the middle of the table, and achieved a similar result last season, but the appreciation towards Donis was particularly high.
"Yorgos is a great coach who has done a fantastic job at Panathinaikos under difficult circumstances," said Babis Cymphides, who has been covering the club for many years, stating that Donis is the best professional to have worked on the green bench in the last decade. "On paper he did not have good players at his disposal, but he championed offensive and positive football with high ball possession percentages, and strived to play without feelings of inferiority in front of any opponent. "Disbanded, and came back to himself thanks to Donis. The results were very good in relation to the early expectations, and there was a feeling that if two or three more high-level players could have been added, maybe Panathinaikos would have fought at the top."
"The best coach in Greece"
"Donis' contribution to Panathinaikos was tremendous," says journalist Kostas Bratsos. "He put order into the chaos system, reassured the players who wanted to leave and persuaded them to sign new contracts, even though they were not paid for months. He served as a father figure for the young players. ", As he has always done throughout his career. Donis is charismatic, and has a special ability to find a common language with the players and the fans. He also has a loyal team that has been going with him everywhere for more than a decade."
"Some of Panathinaikos' games in the last two years have been at a very high level and ended in ostentatious victories. Donis is a smart, flexible and knowledgeable coach, and there is almost a consensus that he is the best Greek coach in the last 10 or 15 years. , And in general he excels in the underdog position. He won the trophy with Larissa in 2007, and reached the cup final twice with Atromitos in 2011 and 2012. He had a positive relationship with the players wherever he worked, even in terms of AAC and PAOK that were not Successful, and soon ended in jarring tones, "says journalist Elias Cullons.
"Tends to be condescending"
So what went wrong with the two top teams that Donis reached in order to fight for the championship title? In AAC he landed in 2008 as the personal appointment of good friend Demis Nikolaidis. When the president left four months later, relations with the new management soon ran aground, and the departure was very quick. Veteran fans Pablo Garcia, who was eliminated by the coach. "Garcia is a great leader, but players like him are unable to come to terms with the changes when their fitness drops. He thought he should be on the pitch all the time, even when his fitness did not justify it, "Donis explained in retrospect. Fans were furious at the injury to the beloved icon, owner Ivan Savidis preferred to take their side, and Donis did not finish the season.
These adventures at top clubs highlight Donis' uncompromising nature. He wants to do everything his way, is unwilling to obey the dictates from above, and therefore excels much more with young players and teams that are perceived as underdogs. "Yorgos tends to be condescending, his self-confidence in the sky. He usually has issues with presidents and dominant technical executives because he wants to be dominant on his own. In the end, this is also the reason why he left Panathinaikos, "Bratsus claims." Donis did not get along with chairman Yannis Alapuzos and sporting director Habi Roca, and the parties could not find a common language about the club's future. "It was done by mutual consent - even though the club was the one who initiated the move, contrary to the fans' opinion," says Cympids.
Champions League with yellow-blue
Now Donis was looking for a new challenge, and Maccabi Tel Aviv was an interesting option for him - it even reminds him of a similar experience in the past. In 2013, after the difficult experience at Pauk, he signed with Apoel Nicosia, another Mediterranean empire wearing yellow-blue. "There is an opportunity here to play in the Champions League, and it will greatly upgrade the resume," Donis explained, and the plan has indeed been implemented. After winning the double, Epoel survived the qualifiers in the Champions League, and was drawn in the home leg against Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax. The encounter with the Dutch flagship refreshed for Donis the sweet memory of 1996, and Apoel even ended with it in a 1-1 draw in Nicosia - these were the only point and her lone right gate in the factory.
"I was instructed to send long balls and try to score through the heights, although that's really not the way we usually aim to play," the coach explained after the achievement, and this quote highlights three important aspects. First, Donis is a proponent of ball control and high pressure on the opponent. Pep Guardiola has been his inspiration since 2008, and the Catalan style is very close to his heart - it can not hurt a team led for years by Jordi Cruyff. Second, he is mentally flexible. Donis makes tactical preparations for each opponent, and is willing to deviate from his principles if necessary. After all, he learned a lot and stayed in good touch with Steve Bruce, who coached him at Sheffield United and Huddersfield, and Rossi's worldview is about 180 degrees different from that of Barça. Third, he is willing to talk about everything openly, and in real time.
"Will also go to the third league in England"
Indeed, Donis may be a great gift for Israeli journalists. As Bratsus relates, "Yorgos is very friendly to the media, and is willing to talk for hours on end about football. In meetings with journalists he appreciates, you just can't stop him - he tells a lot. He has a great passion for the game." And maybe he was born in Frankfurt and grew up in Germany until the age of six, but Donis has a southern European mentality for everything. It radiates heat, loves to hug people, and makes connections easily. He's very charismatic, and the connection to him is immediate - but his reactions can be unpredictable if annoying. Rest assured he will not be bored with him as long as he is here.
How long will he stay? Like all of Maccabi Tel Aviv's foreign coaches, Donis sees the Israeli league mainly as a springboard to more glamorous positions. As with Epoel Nicosia, he is particularly keen to try to qualify for the home stage of the Champions League in order to gain greater exposure and advance to the top league. In fact, he is willing to settle for the English Premier League as well, and went on an interview at Huddersfield when it was looking for a coach during last season. "My first direction in the Premier League as a player, he will be happy to coach even in the third league in the kingdom," Bratsos believes. And who knows, maybe it will happen again. The train is speeding forward, and Tel Aviv is just one stop on the fascinating journey of Yorgos Donis - the 11th stop in number since he started coaching 18 years ago.
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