Up and Comers Waiting for their Chance at Panathinaikos
Sechou, Athanasakopoulos, and Vagiannidis headline a list of up and comers waiting for their chance to shine at Panathinaikos.
Despite the tough times at Panathinaikos, numerous youngsters are waiting in the wings for their chance to shine. Last season, the likes of Giannis Bouzoukis, Fanis Mavromatis, and Dimitris Emmanouilidis, among others, illustrated they had what it took to take the next step in their respective careers.
This season presents fresh opportunities for others ready to make their mark after rising through the ranks of the club’s famed Academy. Some of these players have already played a bit-part role last season, but they will be hoping for bigger and better things in the 2019/20 season.
Here is the lowdown on the new kids on the block.
Date of birth: 1/3/2000
Sechou joined the Panathinaikos Academy just over three and a half years ago after impressing Kostas Frantzeskos in a youth tournament. He stood out from the rest from the beginning. He started out as an attacking midfielder due to being short but quickly adjusted to playing up front in the U16 team.
In terms of playing style, the forward has been described as a similar player to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His favourite players growing up were Macrus Berg, Viktor Klonaridis, and Marco Reus. A long career in football appeared to be his destiny from a young age, with Sechou stating that he was “born with a ball” and that he was “destined to play football.” He has been a top prospect for some time and made his debut last season in a home win over Panionios by coming on as a substitute.
At the international level, he had turned out for Albania at the youth level but has since committed to Greece and made three appearances in the Elite Round qualifying for the 2019 U19 Euros.
Date of birth: 27/11/2001
Athanasakopoulos joined Panathinaikos in the summer of 2017 from Thyella Patras after the club fended off interest from Olympiacos, AEK, and PAOK. He was even wanted in Germany by clubs such as Kaiserslautern and VfL Bochum. Takis Fyssas, former Euro 2004 winner and the man in charge of the Academy at the club, went to Patra three times to get the deal over the line.
The attacking midfielder is very good technically, has an eye for goal, and is a two-footed player. He is a regular fixture in the youth teams for Greece and particularly impressed in a friendly at the U21 level against Montenegro where he scored and won a penalty in 60 minutes of action. He was around the first team set up for some time last season but is expected to receive more playing time moving forward.
Date of birth: 12/9/2001
Position: Right Back
The 182cm right-back has been touted as one of Greek football’s biggest talents for some time and is ready to make his mark. Vagiannidis is already seen as one of the best players in the U19 Super League and put in an array of impressive performances (21 games and two goals). He has also been a regular for Greece at youth level.
Two years ago, he attracted interest from Manchester City, Porto, and Olympiacos, but decided to stay loyal. In his eighth season at Panathinaikos, he is very much a modern day fullback and can also operate as a wing-back, if necessary..
Up to a Dozen Academy Players Tipped to Receive a Chance in Preseason
According to recent reports, Giorgos Donis is considering taking up to twelve Academy players to the Netherlands for Panathinaikos’ preseason preparations. Since last season, the club has gone back to putting a strong emphasis on developing its own quality players to combat the bleak financial outlook.
Apart from the aforementioned Sechou, Athanasakopoulos, and Vagiannidis, Donis is also examining the likes of Dimitris Serpezis, Pavlos Mavroudis, Adriano Skenterai, and Spyros Tzavidas. This would be on top of Academy graduates such as Bouzoukis, Mavromatis, Emmanouilidis, Tasos Chatzigiovanis, Kostas Apostolakis, Vangelis Theocharis, and Nikos Christogeorgos.