Greece continue to produce top class centre-backs
The Greek national team may be going through a transitional phase, but the country continues to produce top class centre-backs on a regular basis. Following Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ transfer to Arsenal, AGONAsport looks at Greece’s superb track record in defence.
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Remember Euro 2004, when the Ethniki Omada shocked the world to become European champions by winning all knockout matches 1:0? That backs to the wall, determined attitude has always been present in Greek football. A solid defence is guaranteed to help you win, but in Greece, defending is a work of art. Over the years, the country has produced centre-backs of the highest quality, supplying some of Europe’s biggest clubs with classy defenders.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos, the commanding 30-year old, put pen-to-paper on a 3+1 contract with Arsenal, joining young compatriot Konstantinos Mavropanos in the English capital. Boasting plenty of experience with Borussia Dortmund, Sokratis is a reliable figure, summoned to Unai Emery’s Arsenal to help the Londoners tighten up their leaky back line. With Sokratis and Mavropanos on the books of the same club, we could even seen a Greek defensive partnership develop at Arsenal next season.
19-year old Panagiotis Retsos possesses huge potential. Last summer, Retsos opted to leave Olympiacos in favour of Bayer Leverkusen, transferring to the notoriously difficult Bundesliga. Nevertheless, he took to German football like a duck to water, standing out for Leverkusen with some superb showings in the centre of defence. As a result, rumours have suggested that Barcelona, impressed by his excellent performances in Germany, are thinking of making a bid for Retsos.
AS Roma star Kostas Manolas, one of Europe’s fastest defenders, recently captured headlines around the world. In the UEFA Champions League, Manolas registered the most famous goal ever scored by a Greek in the tournament, heading home to defeat Barcelona in the quarter-finals. Playing at centre-back, Manolas is an expert at making life difficult for the opponents, able to match forwards for pace and tactically alert. Without him in the squad, Greece dropped a fatal 1:4 defeat to Croatia in November 2017, missing out on a FIFA World Cup berth. Coincidence? Probably not.
Just like Papastathopoulos and Retsos, the physically strong Kyriakos Papadopoulos also spent the 2017/2018 campaign in Germany, but following Hamburg’s relegation, he’s expected to begin searching for a move away. Despite Hamburg suffering demotion, Papadopoulos cannot be blamed for the failure, doing his best to save the club’s Bundesliga status and fighting until the death. Due to Papastathopoulos and Manolas often starting matches for Greece, Papadopoulos rarely plays the full 90 minutes on the international stage.
From Traianos Dellas to Sokratis Papastathopoulos, we look at the 49 Greek central defenders to compete in foreign European leagues in the past 21 years:
Nikos Dabizas (1997-2005: Newcastle United, Leicester City)
Marinos Ouzounidis (1997-1999: Le Havre)
Traianos Dellas (1997-2005: Sheffield United, Perugia, Roma)
Kostas Konstantinidis (1999-2005: Hertha Berlin, Bolton Wanderers, Hannover, Cologne)
Nikos Kounenakis (1999-2000: Anderlecht)
Giorgos Koutsoupias (1999-2002: Sturm Graz)
Anastasios Venetis (2000-2003: Dundee United)
Stathis Tavlaridis (2001-2010: Arsenal, Portsmouth, Lille, Saint Etienne)
Tselepis Giannopoulos (2002-2003: Emmen)
Vaggelis Nastos (2004-2009: Perugia, Vicenza, Ascoli)
Giorgos Kyriazis (2004-2010: Arezzo, Triestina, Salernitana)
Sotiris Kyrgiakos (2005-2013: Rangers, Eintracht Frankfurt, Liverpool, Sunderland, Wolfsburg)
Michalis Kapsis (2004-2005: Bordeaux)
Takis Giannopoulos (2004-2007: Venezia, Pitesti)
Antonis Natsouras (2005-2006: Kyiv, Cremonese)
Christos Karypidis (2006-2009: Hearts)
Andreas Koutelieris (2006-2007: Amberg)
Vaggelis Moras (2007-2017: Bologna, Swansea, Cesena, Verona, Bari)
Savvas Exouzidis (2007-2008: RKC Waalwijk)
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (2008-present: Genoa, Milan, Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal)
Christos Melissis (2010-2011: Maritimo)
Thodoros Berios (2011-2012: Caslav)
Kyriakos Papadopoulos (2010-present: Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen, Leipzig, Hamburg)
Lazaros Fotias (2012-2017: Rakoczi, Oborishte)
Marios Oikonomou (2013-present: Cagliari, Bologna, Bari)
Vaggelis Oikonomou (2012-2014: Ross County)
Alexandros Biris (2012-2013: Turnu Severin)
Dimitris Vosnakidis (2012-2015: Baris)
Loukas Vyntra (2013-2016: Levante, Hapoel Tel Aviv)
Mavroudis Bougaidis (2013-2015: Granada, Gdansk)
Stelios Malezas (2012-2014: Fortuna)
Avraam Papadopoulos (2014-present: Trabzonspor, Shenhua, Yamaha, Brisbane)
Kostas Manolas (2014-present: Roma)
Aggelos Argyris (2015-present: Werder Bremen, Flensburg, Korona)
Giorgos Sarris (2015-present: Erciyesspor, Hamilton)
Kostas Rougalas (2015-present: Leuven, Targu Mures, Westerlo)
Nikos Pantidos (2015-2016: FK Dukla)
Giorgos Katsikas (2015-present: Twente, Esbjerg, Dinamo Bucharesti)
Anastasios Avlonitis (2015-2017: Sturm Graz, Hearts)
Charalampos Chatzopoulos (2016-present: Jaro)
Stavros Tsorbatzidis (2016-2017: Duisburg)
Dimitris Toskas (2016-2017: Zeljeznicar)
Giorgos Tzavellas (2010-present: Eintracht Frankfurt, Monaco, Alanyaspor)
Dimitris Siovas (2017-present: Leganes)
Kyriakos Mazoulouzis (2016-2017: Lierse)
Dimitris Goutas (2016-present: Kortrijk, Sint-Truiden)
Panagiotis Retsos (2017-present: Bayer Leverkusen)
Sotiris Papagiannopoulos (2017-present: Vasby, Assyriska, Ostersunds FK, Copenhagen)
Konstantinos Mavropanos (2018-present: Arsenal)
*- Does not take into account players competing in Cyprus.