Koutris on the rise in Piraeus
When the season began, Leonardo Koutris was second choice to Konstantinos Tsimikas on the left side of defence, but his superb performances have persuaded head coach Pedro Martins to include him in the starting line-up.
The steady rise of Leonardo Koutris is clear for everyone to see. Ever since joining Olympiacos in the summer of 2017, the left-back has displayed his potential on a regular basis, standing out with his ability to defend solidly and join the attack to good effect. Koutris was one of the few bright spots to emerge from a dismal 2017/2018 campaign for Olympiacos, but in a Super League match against Apollon Smyrnis in April, he received a horrible shoulder injury which forced the 23-year old to undergo surgery for 4.5 hours.
On July 18, Koutris participated in his first friendly match of the pre-season against St Truiden, but now he had a new problem - earning a spot in the Olympiacos starting line-up. Fellow left-back Konstantinos Tsimikas had returned to parent club Olympiacos after a successful loan spell at Willem II, and in the opening stages of the current campaign, manager Pedro Martins favoured him over Koutris. Tsimikas’ impressive start to the season kept Koutris on the sidelines and it was doubtful whether he would be able to win his place in the team again.
Nevertheless, after making his Super League debut of the season against Apollon Smyrnis on October 29, he’s suddenly ousted Tsimikas from the side on a permanent basis. In a difficult match with Aris, Koutris popped up with a wonderful assist for Ahmed Hassan’s winning goal, bursting beyond his markers on the left flank to send a pinpoint pass across the penalty area. Not long after that game, he was gifted his maiden call-up to the Greek national team, subsequently notching his maiden appearance for the Ethniki Omada in the 1:0 victory against Finland in Athens.
His character, strength of will and determination deserve plenty of plaudits. During the off-season, Koutris (who was born to a Brazilian mother and Greek father) worked hard to continue his development, notably shifting some kilograms and building up even more muscle to his stocky physique. According to Greek reports, he’s nearly always one of the first to arrive at training, and Koutris is focused on retaining his name on the Olympiacos team sheet. The Thrylos need him to keep performing if they’re to keep up with PAOK in the title race, while Koutris himself will want to be a part of the national team set-up when the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers begin in March.