Panathinaikos AO – 2025/26 Season Review
The end of the campaign has left a hollow feeling in my gut. While we accomplished so much — a domestic sweep, with massive victories in the Champions League — we saw how far we have to go, that night in Paris. There’s so much to be done.
We have the backbone of a squad capable of challenging the elite, if only we have time to continue to develop it. Aymen Mejri does not want to wait, and has handed in a transfer request. He is our talisman. We can replace him, but surely the path would be easier if he would stay.
Truth be told, that hollow feeling in my gut is not solely the result of the task that lies before us, on the pitch. I awoke this morning — mere hours after claiming the Kýpello Ellados — to find a handwritten note from Selene:
“I must leave you for a time. There are too many people here, and I do not like Zlatan. Never think that I am too far from you. You will be in my thoughts always, as I know that I am in yours.”
It wasn’t signed, but the note smelled of her perfume. And that elegant, flowing script had the look of her. Just when we were beginning to truly become close, she leaves? She has always left my head a muddle, and I simply do not understand what could have happened to make her want to leave.
I ask Zlatan, Bozidar and Jesse, who were up all night. Oddly, none of them saw her leave. And they claim to not understand why she has left, either. I do not share the contents of the note with the lads. I don’t know what to think of it, and doubt they’d understand or have much in the way of constructive advice.
No, they’re much more focused on enjoying the World Cup which kicks off in less than two weeks’ time, and their plan to watch every single minute of every match. I’ll be right there with them, of course.
And when the matches aren’t on, we’ll plan for the campaign to come. Another tilt at the Champions League. We must do better, this time. We have to find an edge, put a chip on our shoulders and look towards the next fight.
We must forget that night in Paris, put it in the past. Just like I must do with Selene, it seems.
At least for now.
It has been one hell of a year. ICYMI, all of the shenanigans can be found in the 2025/26 open thread.
I normally don’t make a point to talk about youth intakes, because (even though I focus on youth players) I’m rarely at clubs for more than 5-6 years. This year, though, we had a solid intake with one massive player — Takis Karamanidis. He’ll get time with the first team next year. Tasos Pararas might be good enough to eventually make the squad, too.
As noted above, Aymen Mejri has put in a transfer request, seeking a move to a bigger club. He’s got a contract through 2029 (with a 3-year extension clause), though, so I intend to hold out for a massive fee. Let’s just hope that the Board doesn’t intervene to accept something lower than I want…and that other players don’t join him in seeking an exit. Frankly, if he were to move on we have the depth to manage it — especially with young Karamanidis coming into the squad.
Goals for 2025/26: Win the SuperLeague. Reach the Champions League knockout rounds. Start managing on the international level, if an eligible nation opens up and looks like a “fit.”
Of course, before we can move on to the 2026 World Cup, we need to see what else happened in Europe…
In the Champions League, Pep Guardiola’s Liverpool avenged their loss to Roma in the 2024/25 Champions League with a 2-nil win over Thomas Tuchel’s PS-****ing-G. That makes it 3 Champions League titles in 4 years.
It also means we have a newly-eligible team…which I’d normally be really excited about. But…it’s PSG. The reality is that they’re likely to win the Champions League before long, so I won’t have to go there…at least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself.
In the Europa League, Mano Menezes’ Monaco (say that three times fast…) beat Jorge Jesus’ Atletico on penalties.
Finally, I still love the Europa Conference League, where Bruno Lage’s RB Leipzig claimed the title after a 6-2 win over Basel.
Not much has changed in the active leagues. Diego Simeone’s Barcelona claimed their 3rd straight title in Spain. Unai Emery’s Man City successfully defended their Premier League title, winning their 7th in 9 years. Maurizio Sarri’s Juve, Valverde’s Bayern, and Thomas Tuchel’s PSG did their usual things. Stanislav Genchev’s Genk won their 3rd straight Jupiler Pro League, and Dragan Stojkovic’s Crvena zvezda continued their dominance in Serbia. And, finally, Stefan Billborn’s Malmo won their first since 2017.
If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry. The basic concept behind the Nearly Men save is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Nicolaj Bur’s story can be accessed through the Nearly Men Archive.
And if you just can’t get enough…join us for The Ballad of Toothless Bob, a series conceived and co-authored by Seattle Red and Oriole that explores the world of Nicolaj Bur, away from the pitch. What is Project Arcturus? What lies beyond the twisted redstone door, deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu?