Greece focus

Greek talents to watch

January 12, 2011
By Chris Paraskevas

As Fernando Santos looks to take Greek football forwards after the Otto Rehhagel era, ESPNsoccernet selects a list of players to watch.

1. Vasilis Torosidis

Vasilis Torosidis
GettyImagesVasilis Torosidis made headlines during the World Cup last summer

Age: 25
Position: Full back, midfield
Club: Olympiakos

At the age of 25, he is no longer a youngster but instead the complete package: an established star of the national team and of Greece's biggest club. Scorer of the winner in the 2-1 win over Nigeria in South Africa - his country's first ever victory at a World Cup - his stock has long been rising back home after a string of fine performances for Olympiakos, attracting the attention of European suitors; he is sure to make a big move within the next 12 months. Aside from his technical and physical qualities, he boasts an explosiveness that is extremely difficult to contain. Versatile enough to play in defence or midfield and equally adept at either role ESPN Video.

2. Sotiris Ninis

Age: 20
Position: Attacking midfielder
Club: Panathinaikos

A recognisable name to most followers of European football, Ninis has long been touted as the next big thing in Greece and has been the subject of sensational links to the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past. Whether there's any legitimacy to the claims is uncertain, but they are a reflection on the exciting potential he possesses. Made his mark at youth level for the national team and has since made his full debut, featuring briefly in South Africa. Helped his club to a league and cup double last season, and can change a game in an instant with moments of brilliance ESPN Video.

3. Georgios Tzavelas

Age: 23
Position: Full back
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt

Made his name with Panionios, eventually securing for himself a move to the Bundesliga and so joining a number of his fellow countrymen making a living for themselves on the pitch in Germany. Has worked his way into the first team in Frankfurt already and made his international debut in Greece's Euro 2012 qualifier against Croatia in September; receiving plenty of plaudits for his performance. A cultured, balanced defender who keeps his cool under pressure.

4. Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Age: 18
Position: Centre back
Club: Schalke

Like Ninis before him, caught the attention of prestigious European clubs after starring for Greece's youth sides. An uncompromising and brave defender who is excellent in the air but who also appears to possess an awareness on the pitch beyond his years, he's already shown signs ESPN Video while playing for Schalke's first team that a big career lies ahead.

5. Kostas Manolas

Age: 19
Position: Centre back
5. Club: AEK Athens

Sure to follow in the footsteps of fellow former AEK Athens player Sokratis Papastathopoulos and secure a big move overseas, Manolas is nephew of the legendary Stelios Manolas, who has anointed his relative as his successor at the club. Manolas Jnr has certainly lived up to that billing during his formative years as a footballer and has been a bright light for AEK during an otherwise dark period in the club's history. Steps up for the big matches, reads the game well and is an excellent tackler - expect to see him in one of Europe's top leagues soon.

6. Sokratis Papastathopoulos

Age: 22
Position: Centre back
Club: AC Milan

Proof that 'Sokratis' is one of Europe's most exciting young defenders can be found in this video ESPN Video (ignore the questionable music) , where he is seen to mark Lionel Messi out of a football match and in doing so join what is a select club. Sokratis hasn't enjoyed a successful start to life with Milan but that's not overly surprising given the size of the club and the need to settle. Following Sotiris Kyrgiakos' international retirement, he is now the main man at the back for Greece, where his tenacity, mobility and instinct all come to the fore.

7. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos

Lazaros Christodoulopoulos
GettyImagesLazaros Christodoulopoulos has been a key figure for Panathinaikos this season

Age: 24
Position: Attacking midfielder, winger
Club: Panathinaikos

A prodigious talent who began his professional career with northern giants PAOK, where he attracted attention from outside of Greece before his relationship with the club deteriorated. Apparently nicknamed 'The Builder' after quipping he'd be better off working construction than playing for the Thessaloniki outfit, his career stuttered somewhat at Panathinaikos initially. This season, though, he's been a main figure at the club and has provided some telling contributions in their title battle with Olympiakos. He is a natural finisher who unsettles defences with his direct running style and sharpness inside the penalty area ESPN Video.

8. Ioannis Papadopoulos

Age: 21
Position: Midfielder
Club: Olympiakos

A dynamic left-footed midfielder who made his name at Iraklis, he is also growing into a key player at Olympiakos. Possesses a lethal shot from long range but is equally capable of tight finishes in front of goal, and isn't afraid to run at defenders or to get stuck into the physical battles - a potent mix. He can create goals as well as score them, and has all the necessary attributes to develop into a fine player.

9. Ioannis Fetfatzidis

Age: 20
Position: Winger
Club: Olympiakos

Of all the young talents mentioned here, Fetfatzidis is probably the most exciting to watch when in full flight ESPN Video. Made a good impression on his senior international debut last year, where he displayed his ability to beat opponents with a delightful mixture of skill and pace. In that regard, he is a rare breed of Greek player and is set to develop into a crucial figure for the national team in the years to come. Highly regarded by his club side, Fetfatzidis is also a sharp distributor of the ball and, despite his slight frame, keeps possession superbly and rarely wastes a pass.

10. Georgios Samaras

Age: 25
Position: Striker
Club: Celtic

The mercurial former Manchester City forward is widely regarded as one of the club's biggest flops but, since bursting onto the scene with Heerenveen in the Netherlands, he has been Greece's Great White Hope. Things haven't quite worked out as planned as this talented individual has also waned at Celtic as well as barely making an impression on the national team. A recent double against Rangers could be the most important goals of his career.