AGONAsport Spotlight: Konstantinos Mavropanos, Greece’s next big thing
Boasting a proud history of top level defenders, Greece can look forward to the future with real hope of that tradition continuing. Last week, English giants Arsenal signed 20-year old centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos from Super League outfit PAS Giannina for a reported 2.1 million euros, a transfer which made headlines both in Greece and Europe.
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Born in Athens, Mavropanos came through the ranks at Apollon Smyrnis and PAS Giannina, eventually making his senior debut for the latter in 2016. AGONAsport looks at the defender’s success story.
Promising start in Greece
Mavropanos enjoyed eight years at Apollon Smyrnis between 2008 and 2016, playing for various youth teams in the club’s system. However, he only really started to make an impression after moving to PAS Giannina. On 29 November 2016, Mavropanos was finally handed his senior professional debut, representing PAS in a Greek Cup match.
Since that day, Mavrpoanos has rapidly gone from strength to strength. Having made two Super League appearances in the 2016/2017 campaign, he gained the trust of PAS head coach Giannis Petrakis to become a first team regular. The tall defender competed in 14 league matches this season in Greece, even managing to score three goals.
The next Kostas Manolas
Looking at Greeks who play for foreign clubs, Mavropanos certainly has role models available. In particular, he’s been compared to Kostas Manolas, a 26-year old who has progressed into one of Europe’s best defenders at AS Roma. PAS Giannina’s former academy director immediately saw Mavropanos’ potential to become the next Manolas, pointing out his superb development. While no-one in Europe is yet aware of Mavropanos’ ability, Super League followers have already witnessed enough to suggest that he could turn into a special player.
Despite only playing 16 Super League matches for PAS, an amount which is barely sufficient to fully assess a player’s potential, Mavropanos has demonstrated that he owns the required attributes to grow into a solid defender. Standing at 192 cm tall, the towering centre-back is strong in the air, beats attackers in one-on-one duels, stands his ground and refuses to be beaten. In a Greek championship game against AEK Athens at the start of the season, Mavropanos was impressively named the game’s MVP.
The key is how Mavropanos times his jumps. He has a fantastic leap, being able to outmuscle opponents and score important goals. Incidentally, his three markers in this season’s Super League were all powerful headers.
Still, it’s worth taking into account that Mavropanos has virtually no experience of senior football. His talent is there for all to see, but he is yet to have a full season under his belt. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger touched upon this when signing the Greek defender, stating that Mavropanos isn’t ready to play with the Gunners. As a result, it’s expected that he will be loaned out to Werder Bremen, where he can play regularly in one of Europe’s leading football leagues.
One thing which Mavropanos has to improve is the technical side of his game, especially given that Arsenal are a team which love to keep the ball moving on the ground. He’ll have no other option than to take his possession skills up a notch.
Dealing with future expectations
Playing at PAS Giannina, Mavropanos isn’t used to large expectations. PAS generally finish mid-table in Greece, but as Mavropanos starts getting experience of playing for bigger clubs, he will have to adapt to playing in tense matches where the price of a mistake will be extremely high. Without doubt, his future loan will stand him in good stead ahead of playing in the English Premier League.
It’s going to be thrilling watching just how Mavropanos develops, and whether he will live up to the hype which surrounds the young Greek. It’s all in his hands.