Profiling Christos Mandas: ‘The Greek Donnarumma’ Already Shining At 16
AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis profiles Atromitos’ young ace, Christos Mandas, who has been called “the Greek Donnarumma” by Inter Milan’s top scout.
There is a story brewing at Atromitos this season that close watchers of Greek football are getting excited about. It’s not to do with the Peristeri club’s fine start to the season either which has seen them remain in the top places of the Greek Super League table.
Rather, there is real excitement about the development of 16-year-old goalkeeper Christos Mandas. The young talent is raising eyebrows not only in Greece, but also across Europe with scouts from big continental sides already monitoring the Greek U-17 national team netminder.
Mandas has been attracting interest from European scouts for about 18 months and has prompted a top scout at Inter Milan to coin him as “the Greek Donnarumma”, in a reference to the current AC Milan wonderkid who is considered Italy’s top goalkeeping prospect.
Mandas’ story begins in the neighborhoods of Korydallo. But, despite being from the Piraeus region and impressing with youth teams in that area, the 6’1 Mandas was surprisingly never snapped up by Olympiacos.
Instead, Atromitos were the one Super League side that saw the potential in the youngster and this past summer signed him to a professional contract...at the tender age of 15 making him the youngest squad member in the club’s history.
Mandas came to prominence earlier this year in leading Greece to success in the Aegean Cup. The U-16 tournament came down to a final between Greece and Turkey that was settled on penalty-kicks. Mandas was the hero for Greece saving two penalties in the shootout as the Galanolefki prevailed 5-4 to defeat their Turkish opponents and win the competition. His saves saw him earn the nickname of “Mr. Penalty.”
Just last week came Mandas’ first taste of professional football. The young talent coming on for the final 25 minutes of Atromitos’ 4-0 Greek Cup over Sparta. It was another milestone in the player’s young career and another record as he became the youngest player to feature in an official match in Atromitos’ history.
Undoubtedly, Mandas is showing great prowess already as a fine shot-stopper. That is perhaps his strongest asset thus far along with his footwork and passing range. Mandas has earned high marks from scouts due to his comfort at playing balls out from the back and also his accuracy in finding teammates up field with longer passes.
Mandas reportedly works extremely hard on a consistent basis with goalkeeping coach Slobodan Suija. His main drawback at this point is purely his inexperience. That can only be remedied with time as Mandas receives more training and actual match experience.
Mandas has shown good leadership qualities for such a young player. He is considered a charismatic goalkeeper with a personality that inspires confidence with those around him. Even at his young age, he is already displaying a big-match mentality, showing he is able to handle the pressure of higher-profile situations.
THE BIG QUESTION
The main question regarding Mandas’ development is whether he will be able to shoulder the burden of expectation his talent is fostering. Talent will only bring an individual so far, thus Mandas will have to show he can handle the pressure of performing at the highest level, especially if he makes a big move abroad.
Atromitos firmly believe they have struck gold with the signing of the 16-year-old. The club have already placed a €2 million buyout clause on Mandas. That will probably not be high enough to detract some well-known suitors. Some of the teams that have consistently been scouting the Greek keeper include four former European champions. Juventus, Inter Milan, Liverpool, and Hamburg are all said to be interested and other scouts to catch matches have hailed from clubs such as Schalke, Hoffenheim, Newcastle, Fiorentina, Atalanta, and Newcastle amongst others.
In early November, Mandas made headlines for appearing at the Greece-Croatia World Cup Playoff game in Piraeus with Greek super-agent Paul Koutsoliakos. Mandas has signed on with Koutsoliakos who represents some of Greece’s top players. It does appear only a matter of time before he moves to a bigger club, likely outside of Greece.
It’s way too early to tell about a potential impact with regard to Mandas. That said, there appears to be genuine reason to be excited as a Greek football supporters about his ability to develop. If this extremely talented teenager can continue making steady progress by working diligently on his game and taking his chances when they come then perhaps Mandas does truly represent Greece’s goalkeeping future.