“I would like to inform the fans of AEK that on Monday night I received an offer from Liverpool, an offer which I have accepted. I’m sad to be leaving but Liverpool is one of the greatest clubs in Europe. I can’t wait to start.” - Sotiris Kyrgiakos.
In what could turn out to be one of the most surprising transfers involving a Greek player this summer, reports are rife this Wednesday that AEK defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos is on his way to Liverpool. The Reds are currently short of defensive options after letting Sami Hyypia head to Bayer Leverkusen, while Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel have both been sidelined with injuries in the past few weeks.
Rumours had linked Rafa Benitez with moves for Ryan Shawcross and Michael Turner but, having to contend with a limited transfer funds after the purchases of Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani, Kyrgiakos appears to have emerged as the preferred option. According to the whispers, Kyrgiakos has been bought for around £2 million and will sign a three-year deal at Anfield worth £30,000-a-week.
If 30-year-old Kyrgiakos, who has 49 caps for Greece, completes the move, he will be joining his sixth club. The centre-half, known for his combative style and aerial ability, has had successful spells at Glasgow Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt, while most recently he was given the captain’s armband during the 2008-09 season with AEK.
Far from being a clean-cut defender, Kyrgiakos’ career has often been dogged by controversy.
The more recent installment came during last season’s cup final between AEK and Olympiakos when he was shown a red card soon after being substituted (watch here). But this outburst was far from being a rare occurrence, earlier in the season in another match with Olympiakos the rugged centre-half lost it with Avraam Papadopoulos in an incident which came dangerously close to spilling out of control (watch here).
And back in the early days of Kyrgiakos’ career, when the defender was playing for Panathinaikos, there was an unforgettable tussle with Olympiakos striker Giovanni which saw the pair take their off-the-ball battle onto the turf where Kyrgiakos thumped his opponent on the side of his face (watch here).
Balancing Kyrgiakos’ mean streak, which is always likely to see the defender end up in the ref’s notebook or dismissed to have an early bath, is the defender’s tough tackling and powerful physical presence. In particular, standing 6.3ft tall and equipped with a timely spring in his step, Kyrgiakos is a beast in the air. His brawn does has a downside though as the defender carries the reputation of not being the best distributor of the ball.
And then there are the question-marks against Kyrgiakos’ fitness. In 2003 he suffered a serious injury to his left knee which saw him miss Euro 2004, which Greece went on to win. Last season the defender again suffered periodic absences and it is doubtful whether Kyrgiakos can maintain his health throughout the year ahead.
While the arrival of Kyrgiakos will act as a band-aid for the Reds, we would argue that had Rafa’s purse strings stretched that much further then the likelihood of the Greek international arriving on Merseyside would have been considerably less. Far from a dream signing, Kyrgiakos could well chip in with some crucial goals from set-plays while it would also be no surprise to see several cards flashed his way over the course of the next ten months.
Video evidence of Sotiris Kyrgiakos can be seen here.