He has spent an estimated £150m refurbishing the Nottingham Forest first team this summer, but Evangelos Marinakis is still spending on his football empire.
When James Rodriguez signed for Olympiacos this week, he was their 14th signing of the summer and more will follow. Sounds familiar? That’s because media mogul and ship owner Marinakis owns Olympiacos and Forest, who have made 22 additions of their own in the last window.
With an estimated value of £2.6bn, Marinakis was true to his word when he pledged to give Forest boss Steve Cooper “all the ammunition he needs” upon being promoted in May.
Evangelos Marinakis (left) owns both Nottingham Forest and Greek champion Olympiacos
The frenzy of spending broke records and made headlines, but it also drew envious criticism from some circles of Olympiacos’ partisan support, who questioned whether Marinakis was showing favoritism to his Premier League project.
Now, however, he has supplied them with former Real Madrid stars Marcelo and James in a bid to retain the Greek League title, which they have won ten times since he took over in 2010.
In addition to Marinakis and sporting director Christian Karembeu, former Everton star James was introduced to the rowdy crowd of Olympiacos last night.
He said: ‘I like to live the warmth of the world in a hot stadium. I want to promise that I came here to do my best. I want to win titles, score goals, provide assists, present good football, that’s what I like and love.
Former Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez was Olympiacos’ 14th summer signing
Marinaki still plans to sign more players as Forest pushes to stay in the Premier League
‘I am very happy to be here. My first impressions are the best possible of this beautiful country. I’m happy to be in such a stadium, I know the fans are very passionate.”
Marinakis has also added Marseille striker Cedric Bakambu, midfielder Diadie Samassekou on loan from Hoffenheim and signed a deal with former Fulham and Forest midfielder Pajtim Kasami.
So what’s the attraction? Is it just about the money?
“Believe it or not, no,” a well-known agent told Sportsmail. ‘They pay a salary in line with the market, but what comes through is the ambition and Marinakis is super driven.
‘He and his entourage are great at selling clubs to you; where they want to go; what the short and long term goals are. Look at who bought them, there is a variety of profiles, characters that fit both models.
Marinakis has also added striker Cedric Bakambu (above) to Marseille’s Greek side
Jesse Lingard said Marinakis’ ambition for the club drew him to Nottingham Forest
“Steve Cooper wants young, hungry players, not mercenaries. Marinakis makes it clear to the players in his sales pitch: “You’re not here to help Forest survive, you’re here to make them competitive.” At Olympiakos, the requirement is to keep winning, it’s simple, there they can’t come in second. You cannot question their ambition, they have pulled out all the stops.’
Jesse Lingard said that was the main factor that drew him to Forest. The fact that he was attracted to Forest at all initially raised eyebrows. Cynics suggested it must be his boosted contract, but Forest proved their intent by adding more promising names.
“It’s ambition,” said a club insider. “If you look at what the owner has done at Olympiacos and all of his companies, they have been successful. Jesse was certainly impressed by the ambition to compete in the Premier League and not just to participate.”
Forest has signed the equivalent of two starting eleven for this season. The running joke is that ‘there have been so many initiation songs that they’ve had more acts than Glastonbury this year’. Midfielder Lewis O’Brien was the star in every way with his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.
Forest has already been linked with Palmeiras’ Brazilian attacking midfielder Gustavo Scarpa
Team meals are a must, close outings are essential. The squad has enjoyed trips to Trent Bridge for cricket and Motorpoint Arena for boxing. Of course, if you’re not satisfied, there’s always the prospect of a new signing taking your place in January.
Forest has already been linked with Brazil’s attacking midfielder, Palmeiras’ Gustavo Scarpa, but it is known from the inside that he may make a detour to Olympiakos first.
The Greek champions play against Alan Pardew’s Aris on Sunday and with big names like Marcelo and James on the sidelines, the pressure is already on Olympiacos coach Carlos Corberan, formerly of Huddersfield Town, to make up for leader Panathinaikos.
After just four games, that could be the prize of ambition.
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