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Zagorakis release alerts Europe

UEFA EURO 2004™ Player of the Tournament Theodoros Zagorakis is a free agent after leaving AEK Athens FC.

Four-year spell
The Greece captain, who lifted the Henri Delaunay trophy on 4 July after his country's sensational 1-0 victory against hosts Portugal in the final, has reached a settlement with financially troubled AEK Athens FC which ends his four-year spell at the club.

Termination agreed
Zagorakis agreed the termination of his contract with his international team-mate, and AEK major shareholder, Themistoklis Nikolaidis. He will receive less than half of the money owed to him by the Athens side over a three-year period.

He 'genuinely cares'
"Theodoros Zagorakis wore AEK Athens's jersey for the first time on 10 July 2000," read a statement released by the club. "Since that day, he has honoured the club and the fans with his presence on the pitch. Now, in these difficult times, Zagorakis showed that he genuinely cares for the team. AEK Athens would like to express their gratitude towards the captain of the Greek national squad, because he put the club's interests above his own.

Praise for Zagorakis
"Zagorakis could have taken his money and been released from his contract," the statement continued. "But, knowing the financial state of the club, EURO 2004's most valuable player decided to give away 50 per cent of the money owed to him and take the rest, with the conditions the administration proposed to him."

Bologna tip
The announcement is likely to alert several clubs across Europe, with Serie A's Bologna FC among those rumoured to be vying for the 32-year-old's signature.

Nikolaidis quest
Meanwhile, Nikolaidis continued his quest to save the club yesterday by meeting with the Greek minister of sport Georgios Orfanos. After the meeting, Orfanos stated: "I hope AEK Athens can come back from the dead. The government is preparing a law concerning the debts of football and basketball clubs and AEK Athens will be given time to arrange their affairs."

Request accepted
The minister also said that AEK had asked to use Athens's Olympic stadium as their home ground for the 2004/05 season and that their request had been granted.