1 kai 2 kai 3 kai 4... Omades!
In addition to making headlines, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos’ transfer to Olympiacos made history as the Greek international became the first to achieve a unique feat…
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In the iconic Greek movie ‘Never on Sunday,’ legendary actress Melina Mercouri offers a vocal version to the iconic song “Ta Pedia tou Peiraia” by Manos Hatzidakis.
Mercouri, who stars as a self-employed, free-spirited prostitute named Ilia who lives in Piraeus, stares at what is thought to be an Olympiacos team photo as he sings the words to Hatzidakis’ timeless song.
Part of the chorus includes the repetition of counting from one to four as Mercouri’s character recalls her dreams and plans for the future.
Not only is the song a classic, but the part that involves -- to borrow lyrics from the song -- the repetition of “ena kai dio kai tria kai tessera” is certainly what makes the song catchy, too.
That particular fragment from the lyrics is also a perfect way to describe the history that Lazaros Christodoulopoulos made on Tuesday night.
Olympiacos made headlines when the Erythrolefki announced the acquisition of one of the Super League’s best players from the past season; a major shock considering the progress Christodoulopoulos not only made personally but for his former employers, too.
Christodoulopoulos, who spent the last two seasons at AEK following a three-and-half year stint in Italy’s Serie A, opted to move to AEK’s fierce rivals despite playing a large part in the club’s title-winning campaign this season in the Super League.
Olympiacos were seemingly impressed by the return-to-form Christodoulopoulos showed since his return to the Greek top flight; particularly this season as the Thessaloniki-native demonstrated the talent that earned him a trial at Liverpool in 2006.
While the move is not short of any controversy as AEK contest that Christodoulopoulos is under contract based on the terms of the initial contract, Christodoulopoulos’ move to Olympiacos etched the Greek international’s name in history in a rather unique way.
Christodoulopoulos became the first player in the history of Greek football to sign for each of the Super League’s top four clubs: AEK, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, and PAOK.
Of course, Christodoulopoulos’ path to playing for Greek football’s leading quartet began in his native Thessaloniki as Christodoulopoulos worked his way through PAOK’s academy up to the first team in 2005.
After spending the first three years of his professional career at PAOK, Christodoulopoulos joined Panathinaikos in the summer of 2008 for a reported transfer fee of €2.2 million.
Christodoulopoulos would go on to spend four-and-half seasons at Panathinaikos – some of which were injury-riddled – before finally securing a move abroad with Italian side Bologna after the Trifylli opted to release Christodoulopoulos in January 2013.
Known to fans in Italy by his first name, Christodoulopoulos eventually left Bologna following the side’s relegation in 2014 after agreeing to a three-year deal with Hellas Verona.
Much like his exit from Bologna, Christodoulopoulos found himself in a similar set of circumstances during the second year of his contract with Hellas Verona after the club were relegated in 2016 – incidentally, Christodoulopoulos was loaned to Sampdoria prior to the start of Hellas Verona’s doomed season.
The relegation of Hellas Verona opened the door for Christodoulopoulos to make a return to Greek football in 2016 as AEK signed the Greek international on a free transfer.
After a decent first season with the Enosi, Christodoulopoulos was exceptional in his second season with the club as AEK claimed their first league championship of the new millennium – a feat that had been 24 years in the making.
Now, Christodoulopoulos will look to help Olympiacos return to their post as Greek Champions after this season’s horrid campaign in Piraeus – though Christodoulopoulos’ move to the Erythrolefki does mean he will miss out on a potential UEFA Champions League campaign with AEK.
TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
After an impressive season with AEK, there will be plenty of pressure on Christodoulopoulos to follow-up on his standout season with the Enosi with an equally brilliant first season with Olympiacos.
Perhaps a trend in Christodoulopoulos’ performances will be a good omen for his upcoming stay at Olympiacos, but there is no doubting his performances with AEK will be hard to top.
Although Christodoulopoulos’ longest tenure at a Greek club was with Panathinaikos, his most productive was certainly with AEK as he nearly equaled the 25-goal output he managed with the Trifylli in the space of just two seasons.
Not only has Christodoulopoulos’ goals per game ratio been on the rise over the last two seasons, his assists per game ratio was also on the uptick during his two-year stint with the Enosi.
Although it’s still early in terms of Olympiacos’ transfer activity, Christodoulopoulos will likely need to continue that improvement if Olympiacos are to make sufficient strides in the Super League next season.
THREE’S COMPANY: Players to feature for three of Greece’s Top-4
Although Christodoulopoulos is the first to sign for each one of Greek football’s top four clubs, a handful of other players have come close to featuring for three of the top four.
The first to feature for three of the top four clubs was Anastasios Mitropoulos who played for Olympiacos, AEK, and Panathinaikos all during the mid-nineties. After beginning his professional career with Ethnikos Piraeus, Mitropoulos moved to Olympiacos where he enjoyed the best stop of his career over the space of eleven careers with the Erythrolefki. In 1992, Mitropoulos signed for AEK but failed to live-up to his reputation as a goalscorer while with the Enosi. By the time Mitropoulos signed for Panathinaikos in 1995, Mitropoulos was a shadow of his former self as he managed just one goal in his one season with the Trifylli.
In 2003, Koffi Amponsah became the first foreign player to complete the feat as the Ghanaian defender joined AEK after a short stint at Olympiacos (1999/2000) and a slightly longer one with PAOK (2000-2003). Despite improving while at PAOK, Amponsah didn’t quite replicate the form he achieved with the Dikefale tou Vorra following his move to AEK. After just twenty appearances over two seasons, Amponsah would move on from the Enosi to sign with Egaleo.
Ioannis Okkas became the second player in two seasons to complete the feat when he joined Olympiacos ahead of the 2004 season. Unlike Mitropoulos and Amponsah, whose performances seemingly declined as they move from club-to-club-to-club, Okkas’ form only improved by the time he arrived in Piraeus.
Okkas made a splash in Greece upon his arrival in 2000 as the Cypriot international was key player in a PAOK side that would go on to win two cups during Okkas’ stay at Toumba.
Although Okkas never got the chance to replicate his form with PAOK while AEK when he joined the Athenian club in 2003, his run with the Enosi did start brightly when he scored the first goal of the 2003/2004 season in a 1-0 win over Egaleo. Financial trouble would force AEK’s hand at the end of Okkas’ first, and only, season with the club; opening the door for Okkas to make the move to Olympiacos.
Okkas became the first player to score the first league goal of the season in back-to-back seasons when he repeated the feat in Piraeus in a 2-1 win over Kallithea – that goal also happened to be the first goal in the newly-rebuilt Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium. Okkas would go on to score 22 times and assist on a further 14 goals in 110 appearances for Olympiacos over the space of three seasons with the club.
One of Okkas’ former Olympiacos teammates, Pantelis Kafes, became the second Greek player to play for three of the top-four clubs when he left Olympiacos in 2006 to sign with AEK.
Despite being a mainstay in the lineup wherever he went, Kafes enjoyed his best years in terms of personal performance when he began a six-year stint with PAOK in 1997 after leaving boyhood club Pontioi Veria.
A 30-goal output in 165 appearances for PAOK would be Kafes’ best production throughout his career, but the former Greek international was still a useful part of Olympiacos’ squad during two double-winning campaigns in 2004/2005 and 2005/2006.
Following his move to AEK in 2006, Kafes played an even more lucrative role for the Enosi – granted there was an increase in his defensive responsibility compared to his early days with PAOK.
Despite his defensive responsibilities, Kafes still found the scoresheet in his first meeting with Olympiacos after leaving the club on bad terms. Perhaps Kafes’ most successful season with AEK was when the Enosi hoisted the Greek Cup in 2011 following a 3-0 win over Atromitos, which also included a goal from Kafes.
Arguably the best player to play for three of the top-four clubs in Greece is Kostas Katsouranis, who made his first stop with a top-four club at AEK after impressing with hometown club Panachaiki during the first six years of his professional career.
Although Katsouranis was with AEK during a turbulent time for the club, the former Greek international was loyal to the club as he remained an AEK player despite plenty of suitors from abroad reportedly interested in his services. Katsouranis’ best season with the club was during the 2004/2005 season when AEK narrowly missed out on the league title in a tight three-horse race; yet Katsouranis’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed as he was named the PSAP Player of the Year.
Eventually becoming the captain of the club, Katsouranis remained loyal to the club until perhaps the sacking of manager Fernando Santos – prompting Katsoruanis to force a move abroad at the end of the 2006 season. Benfica, who were now managed by Santos, came calling and eventually lured Katsouranis to Portugal on a four-year deal.
The EURO 2004 winner cause plenty of controversy when he returned home from Portugal in 2008 and signed with Panathinaikos – a move that was seen as a major betrayal by most AEK fans.
While his stint with AEK only lead to one runners-up medal in the Greek Cup, Katsouranis enjoyed plenty of success in his first season with Panathinaikos as he helped guide the club to a domestic double during the 2009/2010 season.
Failure to repeat their feat in the following two seasons caused some turmoil at Panathinaikos in the following two seasons, before frustrations reached a boiling point and prompted both the club and Katsouranis to terminate their contract via mutual consent.
That prompted Katsouranis to make the move to Thessaloniki as he joined PAOK on a free transfer. Although, Katsouranis failed to win a title with PAOK, he did again claim the personal honour of PSAP Player of the Year during the 2012/2013 season.
The most recent to complete the feat is Fanis Tzandaris after the former PAOK academy product joined Olympiacos after spending two years with the Thessaloniki giants. Tzandaris would make just one appearance for Olympiacos during the 2015/2016 Greek Cup before ultimately terminating his contract after becoming frustrated with the club’s decision to send him out on loan in back-to-back seasons.
Just a few months after terminating his contract with the Erythrolefki, Tzandaris completed a move to rivals Panathinaikos where he currently remains part of the Trifylli’s roster. Although Tzandaris is a defensive midfielder, he does hold the stat as the only player to play for three of Greece’s top four clubs and not be able to score any of the three clubs in league play. Tzandaris did score while with PAOK as he tallied in a 6-1 win over Dinamo Minsk in the UEFA Europa League.