Known in Greece as the country’s next big star and loved in Gelsenkirchen for his battling nature, who is this Kyriakos Papadopoulos? Well, it’s my job to tell you. I have been a fan of his for a while, as I follow the Bundesliga fairly closely. It’s also quite hard to avoid such an exuberant character.
Papadopoulos was born in in town called Katrini, he played for local football side Svoronos Katerinis, but it wasn’t going to be too long before he moved onto bigger and better things. At the tender age of 15 he was snapped up by 40 time champions of Greece, Olympiacos, and it didn’t take him long to make an impact.
Upon signing for Olympiacos there was talk of him being a star of the future, and it was clear the Greek club thought so too. He made his league debut for them at 15 years old, becoming the youngest ever player to appear in the Greek Superleague.
For many Greek players, Olympiacos would be seen as the pinnacle of their career, but not Papadopoulos; he earned himself the reputation of being quite arrogant after describing the club as a ‘stepping stone’ in his career. Most would argue his arrogance was justified though, as it wasn’t long until Manchester United were reported to be sniffing around with Schalke, but it was Felix Magarth who persuaded him to join the German outfit.
Schalke have history of being a working class club – the Veltins-Arena is built on top of a mine shaft – and this is why Papadopoulos was instantly loved at Schalke. Despite being a little too aggressive at times, his hard work and passion is something every fan enjoys, he fights for the football club as if it’s his own, something that we know goes down at Liverpool all too well.
At 19-years-old Papadopoulos was already a fully-fledged Greek international after being pushed through the U17, U19 and U21 teams, it’s clear that the ‘Colossus of Schalke’ is no stranger to rapid progression and adapting to his surroundings.
Papadopoulos is a confident character, as we found out earlier, but sometimes it can come off in a negative fashion. Take Euro 2012 for example; the day before Greece opened their campaign against Poland the starting XI was being announced, Papadopoulos was astounded not to hear his name and acted accordingly. In anger, Papadopoulos exclaimed that Greece would lose without him.
Despite not starting the opening match against Poland, Papadopolous did get a lot of game time at the tournament. He ironically became one of Greece’s best players and this was where the more experienced national players stood up and recognised his talents.
Whilst at Schalke Papadopoulos always seemed to perform in the big games because no pressure got to him. The yearly fixtures against Borussia Dortmund are seen as massive by the Schalke family as it’s perceived by many as the biggest and most fierce derby in Germany. Papadopoulos had a tendency to perform in it. In one interview with local paper RevierSport he was asked if he’s afraid of the extremely talented Dortmund attacking force; his response was brilliant: “Me, afraid? Perhaps I fear one of our players, but certainly not the ones I face.”
The centre-half has a significant positive influence on his club and this is why Liverpool appear so keen to sign him. In comparison with the leading centre-backs in the league, he has scored the joint-highest number of goals (3), has the second-highest tackle-success rate (84.83%), made the most clearances-per-game (6.51) and the most interceptions-per-game (3.77), with only his passing figures letting him down. Although those attributes are very worthy in Liverpool’s new system, it is also important Papadopoulos learns how to efficiently pass the ball around. Once he engrains on the ball intelligence into his game, I’m sure he can become one of the best centre-backs in the world. If Rodgers gets his way, this won’t be an issue.
Should Papadopoulos move to Liverpool he has a lot he could offer the club, he’d definitely fill the hole of fight Jamie Carragher left behind him and the sense of leadership too. I imagine Papadopoulos would complement the left-footed Daniel Agger brilliantly as well. I do feel he may have to tone down his egotistical side, however. Possibly we’d see a repeat of some of Suárez’s antics with a Greek twist – and I don’t mean he’d smash plates.
If he was to join one thing you can expect from him is that he’d perform straight away due to him constantly being pushed up through higher standards of football very, very quickly. He’ll see Liverpool as a challenge, but definitely not one a step too far. That’s his ethos.