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Panathinaikos kicks captain Katsouranis off team

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ATHENS, Greece — Panathinaikos kicked captain Costas Katsouranis off the team in a surprise move Wednesday after winning only one of its five league matches this season.

The Athens club announced its decision after a morning training session ahead of a Europa League match against Tottenham on Thursday.

The 33-year-old Katsouranis, deputy captain for Greece's national team, was a member of the winning squad at the 2004 European Championship.

"Mr. Katsouranis is history at Panathinaikos," club chairman Yiannis Alafouzos was quoted as telling players by the website Skai.gr, which is part of a media group that he runs.

"I have complaints with two or three other players, but it's not the time to talk about that," he said. "I don't want you to feel anxious about the results ... You are good players. Play your football and we will be a big club again."

Katsouranis had already been serving a six-match league suspension for insulting the referee at an Aug. 31 match. The former Benfica player issued no immediate reaction to his dismissal.

Panathinaikos is currently in 12th place in Greece's 16-team league with four points from five matches — with two points deducted due to fan violence last season. Main rival Olympiakos leads the league with 15 points from five straight wins.

Panathinaikos coach Jesualdo Ferreira is under pressure after going four games without a win, and had fallen out with Katsouranis, according to reports from state and other local media.

In the Europa League, Panathinaikos lost its opening Group J match to Slovenian club Maribor 3-0 on Sept. 20.

But the club's management has publicly backed the Portuguese manager, crediting him with weathering steep budget cuts amid the country's major financial crisis.

Topflight Greek clubs, hammered by low stadium attendance and plummeting commercial revenue since the crisis broke out in late 2009, have sold most of their star players. Panathinaikos' losses included French striker Djibril Cisse, now at Queens Park Rangers, talented midfielder Sotiris Ninis to Parma, and former captain Giorgos Karagounis to Fulham.

Greek financial troubles have left a depleted AEK Athens bottom of the league with just one point from five games.

Ferreira on Wednesday refused to comment directly on Katsouranis' departure.

Asked how his dismissal could affect Thursday's game, Ferreira said: "As you know, Katsouranis was already out of the squad because of his punishment. So the question has no meaning."

It was unclear how Wednesday's news might affect Katsouranis' national team participation.

Greece coach Fernando Santos is scheduled Friday to announce his squad for this month's World Cup qualifying matches against Bosnia and Slovakia.

Associated Press video journalist Eftehia Katsareas contributed to this report.