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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Nicolai Vollquartz
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AEK touch down without boss Ferrer's top targets


AEK Athens manager Lorenzo Serra Ferrer has suffered heavy disruption to his Champions League plans after being rejected by three principle signing targets.

The Spaniard admitted to feeling the pressure as he touched down in Edinburgh last night with his players ahead of tomorrow's first leg of the Champions League's final qualifying round against Hearts, and is still smarting from failing to significantly reinforce his squad.

The deadline for registering new players for the final qualifying round passed last Thursday, August 3, and the Evening News can reveal that AEK's overtures have been refused by Mallorca's Serbian striker Andrija Delibašic, midfielder Sam Dalla Bonna, who has instead joined Italian Serie B club Napoli, and the Argentinian forward Ariel Ibagaza of Atletico Madrid.

Ferrer attempted to bring both Delibašic and Ibagaza to Greece on season-long loans, but was ready to part with hard cash for former Chelsea and AC Milan player Dalla Bonna. However, the Italian opted for his homeland and has cost Napoli £500,000.

Ferrer conceded: "We are anxious. We have worked intensively for weeks and this is the week we have been waiting for since starting our preparations. This is the most important game for us. We will try very hard to bring success, to build up our prestige, to satisfy and to make our fans happy.

"We have reached the hour of the fight, and the first fight is the most important. I expect an exciting and passionate game."

President Demis Nikolaidis added: "If we don't qualify, we could have financial problems. We have already spent money we don't have, so it is a big risk."

AEK have succeeded in recruiting right-back Martin Pautasso from Independiente and the Benfica's Brazilian forward Gustavo Manduca. Both have travelled to Scotland and are expected to be involved at Murrayfield, but recent signing Perparim Hetemaj has been left behind.

Hearts have brought in Greek defender Hristos Karipidis and Chilean forward Mauricio Pinilla, although only the former has a chance of playing against his countrymen.

Edgaras Jankauskas, however, could make his return from a hamstring injury for Hearts.

Head coach Valdas Ivanauskas said: "He has trained and there has been no reaction so I would say he is 50-50 at the moment. He will train again later today and we will assess him tomorrow."

Tickets for the match are available from Tynecastle until 8.00pm tonight and from 9.00am-5.00pm tomorrow. The Murrayfield Ticket Centre will remain open until 7.15pm, with prices starting at £20 for adults and £12 for concessions. More than 22,000 tickets have gone with the crowd expected to reach 30,000 by kick-off.

Meanwhile, Hearts' record signing Mirsad Beslija could be back in Belgium by the weekend as Sporting Lokeren intensify their efforts to secure a loan deal for the Bosnian.

Ariel Jacobs, who worked with Beslija at Racing Genk during his tenure as technical director, is now head coach at Lokeren and wants the winger to occupy the wide-right slot in his new side.

The player's £9000-a-week wages remain an obstacle that has yet to be overcome by the Belgians as they negotiate with Hearts, who have only paid Genk 20 per cent of the £800,000 transfer fee.

A confident Jacobs said: "I am hoping it will happen this week.

There are negotiations going on. I have no idea what Hearts' situation is, whether they are willing to let him go for one season or not but we only want a loan deal."

Roman Bednar has been included in a preliminary Czech Republic squad for next week's friendly with Serbia & Montenegro.

ANDY WEBSTER held inconclusive talks over his release from his Tynecastle contract yesterday while Bristol City manager Gary Johnson is hoping to secure the signing of his son, Lee, from Hearts.

Taken from the Scotsman

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