The story so far. Petros Mantalos’ eventful first three years with AEK
AEK captain Petros Mantalos received a potentially season ending injury in October, but the dynamic midfielder is still managing to make fans happy off the pitch. Just a few days ago, the 26 year old put pen to paper on a deal which will keep him at AEK until 2022. In dedication to the new contract, AGONAsport takes you through some of Mantalos’ key moments in an AEK shirt.
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July 2013. AEK come calling
Before he received the call from AEK, Mantalos admitted that he never imagined himself speaking to a club from the third division. AEK, a club which was slowly working their way back to the top after bankruptcy, spotted Mantalos’ talent while the latter was playing for Xanthi in the Super League. AEK’s Dimitris Melissanidis and Christos Panopoulos managed to persuade Mantalos to join the club, signing the midfielder for around 500,000 euros. However, as a part of the deal, Mantalos would join AEK for the 2014/2015 season, when the club had made the Greek Football League (second division).
August 2014. Football League debut
As planned, Mantalos left Xanthi for AEK before the start of the 2014/2015 campaign. AEK had eased their way out of the Greek third division, meaning that only one hurdle was left to overcome before the long awaited return to the Super League. Mantalos had no problem adapting to his new club, helping AEK to breeze to victory in the Football League with just two defeats. Just to top things off, Mantalos was even called up to the national team for the first time in his career, something which came as a huge surprise taking into account he was a second division player.
March 2015. Mantalos’ first setback
Mantalos was enjoying a superb debut season with AEK, spearheading the club’s journey back to the Super League with a combined total of 23 goals and assists. However, his world was about to cave in. While competing in a Greek Cup quarter-final match against Olympiacos, Mantalos fell to the ground in serious pain. Not long after the game, it became clear that he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, one of the injuries which all footballers fear. As a result, Mantalos would be forced to spend six painful months on the sidelines.
September 2015 - May 2016. Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger
Itching to get back on the pitch, Mantalos was finally able to lace up his boots again in September for AEK’s first season back in the Super League. Nevertheless, it took him a while to settle in. Comebacks after injuries are never easy, and Mantalos had to be patient before he reached peak form. Slowly but surely Mantalos improved, culminating in the midfielder scoring the opening goal in AEK’s triumphant Greek Cup final against Olympiacos in May 2016. Fittingly, he was the first player to lift the trophy above his head.
September 2016 - May 2017. AEK’s Champions League return
It proved to be a testing 2016/2017 season for AEK and Mantalos. Marred by scandals and inconsistency, the club failed to mount a real title challenge in the Greek Super League, qualifying for the European playoffs in fourth place. AEK lost the Greek Cup final to PAOK in dramatic circumstances, but the club recovered to historically qualify for the Champions League. Mantalos was at the centre of AEK’s success, performing brilliantly during the playoffs and scoring a crucial goal in the final game against Panionios.
October 2017. Second serious ACL injury
AEK started the 2017/2018 campaign in fantastic form, qualifying for the Europa League group stage and moving into first place of the Super League standings. Mantalos was the main reason behind their success, but then disaster struck. In the final moments of a league game against Panionios, Mantalos fell horribly on his left knee when making a pass for AEK’s winning goal. The AEK captain immediately knew his fate, and it was confirmed that he had received a repeat ACL injury. Unfortunately, Mantalos will miss six months of a season which held so much promise for him.
November 2017. Together in the good and bad times
Club president Dimitris Melissanidis vowed to show his loyalty to Mantalos, offering AEK’s captain a new contract until 2022. To the fans’ delight, Mantalos happily agreed to sign. While speaking about the deal, he mentioned his desire to play for AEK at their new Agia Sophia stadium which is being constructed. If Mantalos does see out his contract at AEK, he has the potential to become one of the club’s all time legends, especially if he can steer the club to their first league title since 1994.