Pedro Martins in enjoying the highest point in his managerial career so far, having guided Olympiacos to the Greek Super League title to mark his first trophy as a coach.
The club from Piraeus won the championship by a remarkable 18 points, going most of the season unbeaten, and still have the Greek Cup final and the latter stages of the Europa League – where they will play Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves – to look forward to in the coming weeks.
End of an era
When Martins arrived in Greece from Vitória de Guimarães two years ago, Olympiacos had finally been displaced as champions after seven years of consecutive titles from 2011-2017. AEK Athens won the championship and PAOK Thessaloniki finished in runners-up position, leaving Olympiacos 3rd and thirteen points off top-spot.
With Olympiacos in decline, PAOK were to prove the new force in Greek football and a solid debut year for new boss Martins was not enough to compete with Razvan Lucescu’s side, who went the season unbeaten on their way to a league and cup double. Olympiacos settled for 2nd and an all-important return to the Champions League.
Yet in the midst of PAOK’s dominance, the Portuguese tactician had quietly made Olympiacos a formidable side in their own right. Finishing the season five points behind their competitors, Martins’ team ended with ten straight league wins, ensuring strong momentum to build on during his second year in charge.
Back on top
The aim was clear for the 2019-20 campaign: put Olympiacos back on top in Greece after two years without the title. Bolstered by the signing of Portuguese defender Rúben Semedo among others, Martins and his team were practically flawless all season, going unbeaten until week 34 and clinching their 45th Greek crown in style.
"We are proud of what we have done,” Martins told the media earlier this week. “It is a testament to the quality of the work that everyone at the club has been doing. This process started more than two years ago, when the president hired me, and with a fantastic squad and a staff and a highly competent structure, we managed to return the Greek title to the extraordinary supporters of Olympiacos.
"We still have two important goals this season. For now it’s about the Cup final against AEK. Olympiacos have not done a double since the 2014-15 season and it is important to get that done again.”
After they meet AEK in an attempt to seal the double, thoughts will shift to the Europa League, where Olympiacos’ last-16 tie with Wolverhampton Wanderers is delicately poised at 1-1 after a draw in the first leg in Piraeus.
Many feel the unusual circumstances in which the final stages of European competition will be played, with the quarterfinals onwards being played in Germany (in the case of the Europa League) in one-leg ties, will benefit some of the outsiders. It is a view Martins seemingly shares ahead of the return leg with Wolves.
“We want to continue to shine [in the Europa League] and knowing that we will play in an alternative format to the usual, makes it possible for all who are in the race to dream of the title,” he said.
“Nuno has been doing a fantastic job and we know it will be a difficult challenge. But this group proved their quality against Arsenal [in the last round] and we want to be the first Greek team since 2002-03 to be in the quarter-finals of a European competition.”
By Sean Gillen