All Whites striker Kosta Barbarouses has signed a one-year loan contract with Greek Super League outfit Panathinaikos but might miss their upcoming Champions League games because of the Olympic Games.
Barbarouses arrived in Athens yesterday to sign with Panathinaikos who have won 20 Greek championships and 17 Greek Cups and were European Cup finalists in 1971.
The club announced a one-year loan from Russian Premier League club Alania Vladikavkaz this morning but Panathinaikos will have an option to buy him next summer for an undisclosed fee.
The 22-year-old didn't see as much game time as he would have liked in last season's Russian second division and was looking for a move for the upcoming European season.
He still has two years left on his deal with Alania, who won promotion back to the premier league, but was at risk of dropping down the pecking order as the squad is strengthened for their return to top-flight football.
Barbarouses will feel more comfortable in Athens. His parents are Greek and his father is a Panathinaikos fan and it will be significantly warmer than parts of Russia - he played one game last season in minus seven-degree temperatures and on a frozen pitch.
Panathinaikos are hopeful of persuading New Zealand Football to allow Barbarouses to miss New Zealand's upcoming Olympic warmup games and meet the team in London - the Oly Whites are due to play the Japan Olympic side in Tokyo on July 11 and South Korea in Seoul on July 14 - but NZF won't agree.
Panathinaikos have third round Champions League qualifiers on July 31 and August 7 and will play Europa League if they don't progress. The Oly Whites play their final group game at the Olympics against Brazil on August 1.
"We have the right to request Kosta from July 12 and that's what we will be pushing forward,'' NZF chief executive Grant McKavanagh said.
It might have been different if Barbarouses was older - Olympic teams can have three overage players - but under-23 players must be released by clubs from July 12 for the Olympics.
Barbarouses' move to Russia, while difficult, seems to be paying off. Panathinaikos are one of the biggest clubs in Greece and finished second behind Olympiacos in the Super League last season.
They play at the Olympic Stadium in Athens which holds 70,000 fans and he will join the likes of French defender Jean-Alain Boumsong, former Liverpool striker Sebastian Leto and Greece midfielder Giorgos Karagounis in the squad.
Barbarouses could have stayed at Brisbane after they won the 2010/11 A-League but wanted to push himself.
"You don't want to set your standard as the A-League,'' he said at the recent Oceania Nations Cup in Honiara. "As good as the league is, you want to be aiming higher and you don't want to get comfortable at that level.
"I wanted to push myself. In the back of my mind I know I can come back but I'm trying to aim as high as possible.''
- APNZBy Michael Brown Email Michael