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Maccabi Haifa coach Yitzhak Shum signed a two-year contract late Monday night with Greek first division runners-up Panathinaikos. According to reports from Greece, the deal is worth some 600,000 euros a year.

Shum will replace Uruguayan coach Sergio Markarian, who quit the club following violent protest by fans after a 3-0 defeat to Olympiakos that cost the club the Greek title.

The Greek press reacted with surprise to the appointment of Shum and highlighted the fact that he led Maccabi Haifa to a 3-0 win over Olympiakos in last season's Champions League.

"The move to Panathinaikos, one of the biggest clubs in Europe, is a big step for my career and a big challenge for the future," Shum said yesterday. "I know exactly what the Greek league holds in store and how high the expectations are of Panathinaikos. I plan to invest every effort in the club's success."

In an interview with Greek radio station Alpha Sport, Shum said that the club's aim would be to take the Greek championship.

Shum met yesterday with Haifa chairman Jacob Shahar, who said that he would not stand in the way of the manager who has another year to go on his contract. Shahar wished Shum success and said that the club was happy that it had not only exported players overseas, but had now exported a manager. "We're not angry with him - on the contrary we're very happy for him," Shahar said.

Shum is expected to return to Athens a day before he is officially presented to the club's supporters on June 10. The next day he will watch the Greek national team play Macedonia.

Meanwhile, Shum's departure has created a vacancy in the managerial post at Maccabi Haifa and former Derby County manager and Aston Villa manager John Gregory has been mentioned once again as a possible candidate, although a more likely option appears to be Be'er Sheva coach Michael Kadosh, who led the Negev side to fifth place in the Premier League and a place in the State Cup final. Nir Levin and Uri Malmillian are also rumored to be in the running for the post.

Panathinaikos is also reportedly interested in bringing Giovanni Rosso along with Shum to the club. Panathinaikos' sporting director said yesterday that Rosso is an interesting player and the club has been following him for some time.