AGONA Profile: Who is new PAOK forward Nikos Karelis
PAOK secured the services of Greek international forward, Nikos Karelis, on transfer deadline day through a season loan deal from Belgium club Genk. AGONAsport takes a closer look at his career to date and what PAOK can expect from the new arrival.
Throughout the transfer window, there were numerous reports out of Greece that both PAOK and AEK Athens were in the hunt to snatch the left footed striker on a loan deal. However, PAOK were the ones that secured the deal on deadline day in hopes of bolstering their attacking depth for the long season ahead in both Greece and Europe.
Start of his career at Ergotelis
Karelis was born in Arkalochori, Heraklion and began playing football at the age of six. His father, who was also a footballer, signed him up to play for Ergotelis and at the age of 14, Karelis started training with the senior team where he impressed and signed a professional contract with the club at the age of 15. He made is debut coming off the bench in 2008 in Ergotelis' 2–0 win over Xanthi, in which he became the youngest player to ever play for Ergotelis in a Greek Super League fixture.
Being a young and exciting prospect, Karelis drew the attention of English Premier League club, Arsenal, and took part in a 10-Day trial with the London side. He joined Arsenal’s under 16s and travelled with them to Italy to take part in the Atalanta U-16 Cup Tournament. Karelis scored 2 goals for the English outfit in the tournament, leaving a good impression as he helped the Gunners place first in the competition. However, a deal with Arsenal never went through due to Karelis having already having signed a new contract with Ergotelis.
He spent four seasons with Ergotelis, having made a total of 30 league appearances, most of them coming off the bench, and scored one goal. In the 2011/12 season, Ergotelis were relegated to the Football League and as a result, Karelis decided to leave the club. Despite attracting strong interest from other Greek Super League teams, he signed with Russian Premier League outfit Amkar Perm.
Karelis had a frustrating season in Russia, spending most of the season as a second choice player. He made a total of 9 league appearances in the Russian Premier League before making the decision to move back to Greece.
Outstanding form with Panathinaikos
In 2013, Karelis signed a three-year deal with Panathinaikos that included a 20% resale rate to Amkar Perm. In his first season for the club, he had a solid start scoring 5 league goals from a total of 32 league appearances. He was loving his time in Paiania and was rewarded with a contract extension until 2018.
The best season of Karelis’ career came during the 2014/15 campaign where he made a total of 50 appearances across all competitions, scoring 19 goals, including 15 goals in the Greek Super League. A number of clubs abroad were interested in his services after his breakout season with the Trifylli including Torino, Werder Bremen, Lille, Anderlecht, and Getafe CF.
Despite the interest, he remained with the Prasini for half of the 2015/16 season, where he managed to score 9 goals and dish 5 assists, before moving to Belgium for Genk on 3.5 year deal. The agreement included Panathinaikos would keep 16% of the next transfer fee.
Injury interrupted spectacular form at Genk
Karelis made an immediate impact in Belgium. Just three days after signing with the club, he came on as a substitute and scored the winner in Genk’s 2-1 win over Waregem. He made 18 appearances in the league and found the back of the net on ten occasions in the second half of the 2016 season. His best match came in the last game of the season where he managed to score a hattrick and help secure Genk a Europa League spot for the following season as the club came out victorious in the Belgian playoffs.
Karelis picked up where he left off from the previous season and began the 2016/17 campaign scoring in Genk’s first match of the year. He was playing the best football of his career where he made a total of 32 appearances across all competitions, scoring 18 times, before a tragic ACL injury ended his terrific season.
Karelis returned after a long 290 days recovery process, but ever since, has struggled to regain the form that he had when he first joined Genk. Throughout the 2017/18 season, he made a total of 21 appearances across all competitions, scoring just 4 times. He fell out of favour with the club and returned to Greece for PAOK with hopes of regaining his lost form.
International career with Greece
Being an exciting prospect from a young age, Karelis represented Greece at the under 17s, under 19s, and under 21s levels before finally being called up to the men’s team in 2014. He has now been part of the Ethniki set-up for the past four years, having made 18 appearances for his country and scoring on three occasions.
Karelis’ first international senior goal came in his inaugural start for the Ethniki during their disastrous UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in a 1:1 draw away to Finland. His other two markers have come in friendlies against Montenegro and earlier this year against Egypt.
He has found it difficult to break into Greece’s starting lineup with Kostas Mitroglou ahead of him in the pecking order. However, if he manages to find his old form with PAOK this season, Karelis could very well get the first team nod and be a key role to Greece’s attack as the Ethniki look to qualify for the UEFA EURO 2020 finals.