Not going to apologise for the headline...regardless of the fact that I should...
Perhaps this signing is a little bit odd, given the need for a left back and a creative midfielder - as well as the lack of remaining transfer clout for Sunderland. To be fair though, this transfer has been in the pipeline for a long time and the money spent here is likely to have been accounted for well over a month ago.
You could fit the entire population of Zakynthos into the Stadium of Light, in fact, multiply the landmass by about 300 and you will be somewhere close to the size of England. Not very big. However, local lad and new Sunderland attacker Charalampos ('Charis') Mavrias may well be something big to come out of it.
Zakynthos F.C recently became a professional Greek football team in 2006 after gaining promotion from Semi-professional division Delta Ethniki, that was with no help from Mavrias mind as he trekked some 350 kilometres to Athens – starting with Greek giants Panthinaikos at the tender age of 12. His meteoric rise from pre-pubescent prodigy to Greek international took a meagre six years.
When I was 15 I was auditioning for a school talent show, badly playing the guitar to a Three Doors Down song wearing bright green velvet trousers (I kid you not!) – Mavrias had already begun playing for Panathinaikos’ reserve team. A year later, whilst I played foosball and failed at college, he became the second youngest Champions League debutant again Rubin Kazan in 2010.
Now Mavrias is 19, he has two international caps and made over 50 appearances for Panathinaikos. So, pretty encouraging introduction, but how many of us have had a chance to watch the young man play? I dare say not many, so we drafted in some help from www.panathinaikos-press.com to tell us more about him;
“The main characteristics of Mavrias are that he moves well with the ball, but also his movements without it. He is not fancy player who makes dribbles and other tricks. He makes meaningful passes, he has a good shot and can hit good free kicks. His best skill is the very good penetration of the box from the side. In counter attacks his game is very good and he is generally quite dangerous if there is free space.
He was the next big thing of Panathinaikos and would probably be the leader of our team if he continued his progress here. Last season, he made very good games and best of all in the Olympic Stadium against Olympiacos where he scored a very nice goal. [‘Eternal Enemies’ derby]
His development was not sharp and he is improving steadily, step by step. He can play in the Premiership enough to fit the style of your team. I think he will make a good transition and will slowly gain basic position in your team.
He is a serious athlete and never caused trouble away from football.
The first coach who believed he was good enough was Nikos Nioplias who put him in a Champions League match at the age of 16 years old (season 10/11 against Rubin Kazan)!
Mavrias will improve his game in English football since the Greek league is unfortunately low, with poor arbitrations and totally unreliable. He could not be developed as a footballer [in Greece]. If he belonged to Olympiacos controlling the arbitrations perhaps could evolve faster. In English football he will be given the opportunity to mature his game in a healthy environment.”
Panathinaikos Press touched on the decline of Greek football in quality and popularity, heavily influenced by match fixing scandals which we all read a lot about in 2011. This is a completely different story but the kind of situation which has deterred players away from the Greek league, and could well have been a factor in Mavrias leaving. Other than the fact that we are mint, of course.
Mavrias has been often interviewed in Greece due to his high profile rise to the national team. We have scrolled through a few of them but to be honest we will not find a better quote than this to give you a glimpse a man matured beyond his age;
“I come from the academies of Panathinaikos and through them I learned the principles of sport and became a better man. I learned to respect the principles of sport as I learned from my coaches and, either fighting in Greece or abroad, what you should know well is that we have to respect your opponent and yourself."
Mavrias is primarily a winger however he can also play behind the strikers. From what we can gather he is a very similar style of player to David Moberg Karlsson, in that he is a quick, explosive winger with decent technique. Much like DMK, it is doubtful whether Mavrias is ready to be thrown into the starting eleven – but it is also hard to read anything about him without being excited by how good he could be. A Greek gem? He certainly could be…