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Europa Conference League Final: Olympiacos coach hopes win is not a one-off

Mendilibar masterminded victory over Fiorentina in Athens just 107 days after being appointed

José Luis Mendilibar

José Luis Mendilibar says he hopes Olympiacos’ Europa Conference League success is not merely a flash in the pan.

The Spaniard was only appointed on February 12 but guided the Greek giants to glory in Athens courtesy of Ayoub El Kaabi’s diving header to break Fiorentina hearts four minutes from the end of exta-time.

The 63-year-old has now won UEFA competitions in consecutive seasons after guiding Sevilla to Europa League glory in 2023 and in the process made history as Olympiacos became the first Greek side to win a continental trophy.

He told “I am very happy and satisfied. It is an honour that I have made this whole community happy, I feel immense joy and happiness that I made (the fans) feel this way and I dedicate this victory to them.

“I am happy that we have achieved something that our club has never achieved before. We’re going to celebrate it. We’re going to celebrate it properly and then we’re going to start working on what’s next.”

Victory at AEK Stadium came only 107 days after taking charge of the Super League giants and Mendilibar admitted: “Everything has been very fast, and I hope there is more time, and that in that time that I will be here, things continue to go well and that this is not just a flash of a night or a short time.

“I hope this gives us time to be here for a long time and do very good things.”

Mendilibar said the Red and Whites’ triumph was a win for all of Greece, adding: “The good thing is that it’s not just about thinking about Olympiacos, it’s about thinking about Greek football.

“It will be very good for Greek football and for Greek people to believe more in itself. Greek football has to believe more in its football.”

El Kaabi’s 11 goals in the knockout stages of any UEFA competition is a new record – beating the record of Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rademel Falcao with 10.

The Morrocan striker said: “We all won it together. We thank all of our people: we are all together, one family.”

Teammate Giorgos Masouras added: “It was a lifelong dream to win something like this. I dreamed of winning a European trophy, and I told myself that I could do it. We did it and I am very happy. You have to chase dreams to achieve things.”

Olympiacos defender Rodinei said: “I have been imagining winning European titles ever since I first came to Greece.

“I thought Olympiacos were the best team in Greece and some day I would experience something like this, and more recently I started to believe it even more.”

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in football,” said Panagiotis Retsos, Olympiacos defender. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career but I’m happy to be here, where I grew up.

“It’s the best gift for ourselves, for everyone involved in the first 99 years of the club’s history because we turn 100 next season.”

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.