Nikos Alefantos. (Twitter Photo)
ATHENS: Former Greek football coach Nikos Alefantos, who was a nationwide celebrity despite never holding down a job for more than a few months or ever winning a championship, passed away Tuesday, his former club Olympiakos said.
Alefantos, who coached Greece’s most successful club Olympiakos on three occasions without netting any silverware, died of a heart attack aged 81 according to Greek media reports.
Olympiakos on Tuesday said Alefantos, who played for and coached over a dozen teams during his long career, “loved and served Greek football to the last”.
The Piraeus giants went on a 12-season championship run between 1997 and 2009, broken only in 2004 when they were coached by Alefantos.
Alefantos was for decades a sought-after TV pundit who was never afraid to give viewers a piece of his mind on any player, coach or team in Europe, even if he usually gave the impression of having little idea of what he was talking about.
“Liverpool? They’re nobodies,” he said of the Merseyside club in 2005, the year they won the Champions League for the fifth time.
In rambling monologues, headstrong Alefantos was fond of calling rival coaches “frauds”, mangled their names and dropped racist and homophobic remarks.
Many of his phrases became popular sayings, none more so when he told a reporter after a game: “Let the master school you in football.”
A former midfielder, Alefantos coached nearly every team in the top-flight league in a three-decade managerial career.
He did not coach Olympiakos’ arch-rivals Panathinaikos.
He was often brought in as a mid-season troubleshooter but his abrasive nature meant he rarely lasted a few months in each post. On one occasion, he was fired by one team after three hours.
In 1987, he was handed a brief prison sentence after punching a rival coach at Thessaloniki airport.
The Greek Super League on Tuesday said Alefantos had “left his mark” on Greek football.