With the start of Euro 2012 just over a week away, Goal.com International's Greece expert Michael Paterakis profiles Ethniki and Celtic attacker Georgios Samaras.
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Georgios Samaras' slender build betrays the physique of an old-fashioned No.9 - the kind of forward who attacks with his back pushed against the defenders and heads home every cross coming his way. It is a description worthy of footballing legends such as Ian Rush or Christian Vieri, but not honest enough for the 27-year-old Celtic star's style of play.
Gifted with tremendous dribbling ability, Samaras has found himself playing in a variety of positions, from winger to second striker. While at Manchester City, Sven-Goran Eriksson fielded him on the left flank, even though he protested by saying "I am not a left midfielder, I am a striker and I'd like to play there."
Eriksson replied that he should become more disciplined in his approach.
"I don't think he should be doing so many tricks. He should be using his physical power because he is an extremely good header [of the ball]," the Swede said back in the 2007-08 season.
For the Greek national team, former coach Otto Rehhagel didn't hesitate in handing him the role of attacking playmaker and unsurprisingly his goalscoring tally has not been that great. In 52 international caps since 2006, he has scored only seven times and his most memorable moment is not the overhead kick in Greece's comfortable 5-2 victory over Latvia in 2009, but rather his beautiful assist for Dimitris Salpingidis, who netted the winning goal in the World Cup 2010 qualifying playoff against Ukraine.
Handling all the playmaking may have been a tough feat, but he served the his country adequately in South Africa despite a first-round exit. Since then, Samaras has since resumed his creative duties for the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign under new coach Fernando Santos.
|"Gifted with a tremendous dribbling ability, Samaras found himself playing in a variety of positions, from winger to second striker. For the Greek national team, Otto Rehhagel didn't hesitate to give him the role of playmaker"|
As a youngster, Samaras was equally enamored by basketball - his favorite footballer was Marco van Basten. His sporting hero, however, was Michael Jordan, but he chose football at the age of 10 when he joined OFI Crete, where his father Giannis Samaras - a former Greek international, who currently serves as the head of Panathinaikos' academies - was playing at the time.
His prodigious talent attracted the interest of numerous European clubs. His father, though, an admirer of Dutch football, brought him to Heerenveen in 2001 and a year later his son's efforts bore fruits. While only 17, Georgios broke into the club's first-team scoring three goals in his first four appearances, all as a substitute. He quickly established himself in the Eredivisie and in January 2006 booked his ticket to stardom, when Manchester City bought him for 6 million pounds, a record fee for a Greek player.
However, his transfer to the Citizens proved a wrong step in his career as he failed to win a regular place in the starting lineup at Eastlands. A six-month loan spell at Celtic in 2008 provided a welcome boost in Samaras' career. Scoring a number of important goals in the Scottish side's successful title conquest forced the club to turn his loan deal permanent. Samaras has since won two more trophies with Celtic - the League Cup last season and the Scottish Premier League this term - so he heads to Euro 2012 in the best possible shape.Follow Michael Paterakis on