Super League or Super Greeks? OFI and Panathinaikos lead the way in home grown players
In recent years, the Greek Super League has become notoriously synonymous with teams fielding endless foreigners, especially older foreigners, much to the angst of fans. It is a common belief that these types of players are holding back the development of local Greek talents as they take up a spot in the squad, also on a relatively high amount of money compared to a younger, hungrier Greek.
Clubs became desperate for instant success, with a “quick fix” mentality becoming the norm. It is also a common belief that these types of players are virtually ‘here for the money’, without caring about the club or its fans. This is obviously not true in all cases, however, there is nothing more painful than seeing a club sign an older, more experienced player on big wages for Greek standards, only for them to leave within the next six months after making a handful of appearances and not settling into a new country.
This trend has diminished in the 2018/19 season of the Greek Super League with a greater Greek presence clearly evident. It appears clubs are now taking a more holistic, longer term view with a pathway to sustainable long-term success. The likes of AEK, Aris, OFI, and Iraklis to name a few, succumbed to relegation to lower divisions due to severe financial issues so this has also played a role in the shift.
Panathinaikos, for instance, has almost been forced into it due to the transfer restrictions imposed as a result of their financial woes. However, this sustainable pathway is paying dividends for the Greens. Not only is the team playing an exciting brand of football, it is doing it with young and hungry Greek kids with a point to prove in their fresh careers. Invariably being Greek it means they naturally understand the weight of the shirt and as a result, are more committed to the cause on the whole, compared to their foreign counterparts.
It takes time and money to develop your own players, but it is for the good of Greek football - both the league and the National Team. No transfer fee is required to bring the player to the club and if they impress, the sky's the limit with other European clubs knocking on the door. This sees the team play with passion and desire (highly valued by Greeks) and the club benefits in the longer run by making a profit and avoiding any financial issues.
Interestingly, Super League newcomers OFI lead the way in terms of boasting the most playing time by Greek players. The Cretan club is enjoying a mixed return to the top flight to date, but has beaten heavyweights Panathinaikos and Olympiacos at home. The revolution is now in full swing with Greek players making up an impressive 42.79% of the playing time in the most recent matchday. OFI have given Greek players 77.68% of their playing minutes to date. In other words, 11350 minutes out of the 14610 played have been made up by Greek players.
Panathinaikos and its young guns, who have taken the Championship by surprise, sit in second spot with 70.16%. Asteras Tripolis (renowned for producing quality Greek internationals in recent years such as Tasos Bakasetas, Kostas Fortounis, and Dimitris Kourbelis) and PAS Giannina, occupy third and fourth spots respectively. On the contrary, league leaders PAOK have seen Greeks play the least amount of minutes compared to the rest of the teams (19.72%), however, they look to have spent wisely on the calibre of foreigners they recruit with many making a key difference.
OFI have used the most Greeks in the competition to date (18), with Panathinaikos a close second (17), and have used the least amount of foreigners with five. Olympiacos have already used a whopping 25 players so far this season which can explain their inconsistency in the title race as it is harder to build continuity and cohesion, whereas frontrunners PAOK have used 21 players. PAOK have only used five Greeks to date.
In terms of goals, Greeks have struggled to make an impact, bar the in-form Efthimis Koulouris, as only 31% of goals in this season’s competition have been scored by Greeks. No Greek has scored a goal for Lamia. If not for the outstanding form of Koulouris (11 goals) that figure would have been drastically lower than 31%. Tasos Chatzigiovannis of Panathinaikos leads the way in terms assists with four thus far. Dimitris Kyriakidis of Panetolikos has played the most minutes out of any Greek in the league with a whopping 1340 minutes in goals for the Agrinio outfit.
Minutes Played by Greeks
Asteras Tripolis 64.31%
PAS Giannina 60.92%
Apollon Smyrnis 31.3%
Average - 42.79%
Greeks to Foreigners Comparison
PAS Giannina 14/10
Asteras Tripolis 11/9
Apollon Smyrnis 8/16
Top Greek Scorers
Efthimis Koulouris (11 Atromitos)
Giorgos Masouras (6 Panionios, now Olympiacos)
Michalis Manias (4 Asteras Tripolis)
Tasos Chatzigiovannis (3 Panathinaikos)
Tasos Bakasetas (3 AEK)
Most Minutes By Greeks
Dimitris Kyriakidis (1340 Panetolikos)
Alexandros Paschalakis 1333 PAOK)
Spyros Risvanis (1330 Atromitos)
Savvas Tsampouris (1326 Levadiakos)
Giorgos Zisopoulos (1313 Levadiakos)