One of the stand out performers of this year’s European Championship could be young Greek defender, Kyriakos Papadopoulos.
It’s a bit of a mouthful of a name and strikers will have a handful when they come up against the 20-year-old in Group A, and hopefully further beyond for Greece.
The centre-back plays his club football at German Bundesliga giants, Schalke, and has established himself as a regular in their first team. He has also already seen himself become a pivotal member of the international side and was a huge influence on their qualifying campaign.
Papadopoulos started his career with local side Svoronos Katerinis in his hometown of Katerini, Greece. He then moved on to Olympiakos and became their youngest ever player at the tender age of 15 years and 283 days when he starred in an away victory over Atromitos.
Olympiakos’ interest was triggered by the fact that he had appeared for Greece Under 19s in the 2007 European Under 19 Championship, without even holding a professional contract at any club.
He was signed by Schalke for 2.5million euros and played in their reserve squad in the lower German leagues before Felix Magath drafted him into the first team.
Christoph Metzelder and Benedikt Howedes both provide stiff competition for the 20-year-old at Schalke but he has put up a more than interesting challenge to their positions this season. His performance against Benfica in the Champions League in September 2010 when he claimed the man-of-the-match award ahead of Metzelder with some excellent challenges and quality positional play.
The defender is contracted at Schalke until 2014 after racking up a total of 47 appearances since making the move to Germany in 2010.