Euro 2012: One to watch – Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Name: Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Age: 20

Position: Centre-back

Club/Nation: FC Schalke 04/Greece

The 2011/12 season could be described as the break-through season for Kyriakos Papadopoulos, yet even at the tender age of 20, the Greek defender appears to have had a few already.

In 2007, Papadopoulos starred in the Greece U-19s team that were runners-up to Spain in the Euro-U19 Championships, making the Team of the Tournament. An achievement considering the youngster was only 15 years old and yet to have a professional contract.

Consequently, rumoured to be a target for both Barcelona and Espanyol, Papadopoulos signed for Olympiakos, making his debut for the club in December that year aged 15 years 283days – the youngest player to have appeared in the Greek Super League. Despite this, and perhaps due to age and lack of experience, Papadopoulos only went on to make 12 appearances over the next three seasons, Although he continued to represent Greece at U-17, U-19 and U-21 level. These appearances at international level again drew attention and prior to the 2010/11 season Olympiakos accepted an offer of £2m for him from FC Schalke 04. The young Greek made one appearance for the youth team before being brought into the first team, where he made 18 league appearances (10 starts) in his debut season and featured heavily in Schalke’s run to the Champions League semi-finals.

This season has seen him as one of the mainstays of the Schalke defence – arguably taking over from the aging Christoph Metzelder – making over 35 appearances in all competitions this season. Papadopoulos is 6ft 1in tall, strong for his age and appears to impose himself on the opposition. A fact that can be seen by his Bundesliga statistics – he won 108 tackles, 90 of 138 aerial duels and made 194 clearances. Pace and the ability to read the game is also a strength, born out by his 118 interceptions and 33 blocked shots. Papadopoulos also has the ability to pick a pass out of defence (he used to play in a midfield role for the Greek youth teams), and has range of passes, completing 902/1125 passes – including 100/155 long balls. The youngster also managed two assists and two goals. Perhaps with his propensity for the tackle and with the exuberance of youth, Papadopoulos can go into the tackle when he needs to stay on his feet – he earned nine yellow cards – but this should come with experience.

The youngster made his Greek senior team debut in June 2011 against Malta in a Euro 2012 qualifier. He went on to feature in three more qualifiers, scoring the goal that earned a draw in Latvia and starting the decisive group match away to Georgia. He has also featured in four friendlies the last against Armenia in which he scored the only goal of the game.

Having earned eight caps in the last year, it would suggest that he will feature for Greece at Euro 2012. Arguably his abilities should demand so.

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