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Jan 16, 2003

Nikolaidis set to leave AEK Athens

ATHENS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - UEFA Cup contenders AEK Athens could lose Greek international striker Demis Nikolaidis after he opened legal proceedings on Thursday against the club's acting president, alleging intimidation.

Greece's player of the year made a statement to a police prosecutor at the high court in Athens, claiming he was threatened by Makis Psomiadis and his bodyguards outside his house in the north of Athens on Tuesday night.

A club statement on Thursday confirmed a visit by an unnamed club representative checking on a curfew but made no mention of any bodyguards and denied any wrongdoing.

'The footballer did not answer telephone calls made at around 2300 by a club representative during a curfew period on January 14,' the statement said.

'As a result he was visited at his home by a club representative to check that he was in compliance with the curfew in accordance with club rules, an action that occurred with all our players.

'Mr Nikolaidis responded in an aggravated fashion to the club representative, who explained to him that as a professional he was obliged to accept club curfews under the terms of his contract.'

But Nikolaidis, 28, told reporters outside the court: 'He (Psomiadis) is ruining my career and the career of all AEK's players.

'The problem is not just that he came to my house and threatened me, it's that Greek football tolerates Psomiadis and his henchmen and their methods.'

Nikolaidis has also lodged an appeal with the League of Professional Clubs (EPAE) to be released from his contract and be paid nearly £65,000 in money owed to him.

NARROW MISS

AEK Athens face Spain's Malaga in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup in February after narrowly missing out on the Champions League second phase following draws in all six matches in a strong first round group.

AEK veteran coach Dusan Bajevic told local media: 'I can't tolerate the things that have happened. AEK is in the worst condition I have ever seen during the time I have been associated with it.'

Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who has responsibility for sporting affairs said on Thursday, he was giving the case his personal attention.

'The prosecutor will proceed in this case according to the letter of the law,' he said.

Psomiadis, a former newspaper owner and nightclub impresario, still faces a 12-year prison sentence for a forgery conviction after losing a six-year legal battle with a former government minister over allegations of corruption.

The larger than life character, who took over at AEK two years ago, served less than a week of his sentence last October before being released on grounds of ill health after tests showed he was suffering from tuberculosis.

Standing at nearly two metres tall, the AEK boss sports a large bushy moustache. On match days he is always seen with a giant cigar, typically washed down with a tumbler of whisky.

Psomiadis was criticised earlier this week by another AEK player and Greece international Vassilis Tsartas who is out of the team after making a legal claim over allegedly unpaid wages.

AEK are fifth in the Greek first division after a 6-0 thrashing of bottom club Panachaiki last Sunday.

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