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'Tsimikas is perfect for Klopp' - Olympiacos coach Pedro Martins tips new left-back to shine at Liverpool

12:52 BST 17/08/2020
Kostas Tsimikas Pedro Martins Olympiacos Liverpool GFX
In an exclusive interview, the manager of the Greek champions discusses the 24-year-old's progress, having shone in the Europa League this term

For Pedro Martins, there is no doubt. Liverpool have gone and bought themselves another class act.

“A fantastic professional and a fantastic person,” is the Olympiacos boss’ verdict on Kostas Tsimikas, the Reds’ new £11.75 million ($15.4m) signing. "Trust me; he is someone who is just perfect for the game of Jurgen Klopp.”

Martins would know, having witnessed Tsimikas’ development over the past two years. And while the Portuguese, naturally, is sad to be losing an influential and popular player, his disappointment is overridden by a desire to see his star pupil shine at Anfield.

“He deserves this opportunity,” Martins tells Goal  in an exclusive interview. “He improved so much, and now he will be playing in the best championship in the world, and for one of the best teams in the world.

“I’m not happy that I have lost such a good player, but I am happy for Kostas. I spoke with him after he signed his contract, and he was so happy. This is one of his dreams."

Tsimikas linked up with his new team-mates at Liverpool’s pre-season training camp in Austria at the weekend, and will now look to challenge Andy Robertson for the left-back spot at Anfield. 

It is a daunting task of course, given Robertson’s performances over the past three seasons, but Martins believes the new-boy will embrace the challenge.

“He’s a fighter, who plays with passion,” he says. “He is a strong personality, very strong mentally. 

“He’s available to learn. I know that Klopp will find that, he will listen with his full attention. He wants to improve, and he’s a good professional. He knows he will have to work hard to play. He knows that.

“He knows he will have to be patient, for sure. Robertson has had a fantastic season and is a fantastic player. But Kostas is ready for everything. He will be patient and he will work, every single day.”

Tsimikas was on loan with Willem II in the Netherlands when Martins arrived at Olympiacos in 2018, but quickly established himself as a mainstay upon his return, making 74 appearances across the last two seasons.

Olympiacos under Pedro Martins reclaimed the Greek Super League this season and can make it a league and cup double at the end of the month when they face AEK in the Greek Football Cup final.

“He’s improved a lot in two years,” Martins says. “Consistency, in particular, and defensively. He improved a lot in that area. I remember when he came back from the Netherlands, he had some problems, but he improved so much [with] his positional play, the duels. 

“With the ball, he knows what to do, but he became much more aggressive without the ball and you can see that in his performances.

“We spoke a lot about positioning, being more integrated with the defensive line and more aware. That was the problem he had before. 

“The way we play was about zones, and when he came from the Netherlands he was marking more man-to-man, so he had to change and adapt. We worked hard to improve that.”

He adds: “He was always very involved in our attacking play, and that of course is why Klopp wanted to sign him. He knows what he can bring to Liverpool in that sense. For the game of Klopp, Tsimikas is perfect. He is amazing for Klopp. He gives that energy, width, offensive threat. That’s how we played too.”

Tsimikas also arrives in England with decent experience against Premier League opposition.

It was a performance against Burnley, and the former Tottenham and England winger Aaron Lennon, which caused Liverpool’s scouts to take notice of him during the 2018-19 campaign, and the Greece international has also caught the eye in European ties against Spurs, Arsenal and Wolves, among others.

“If you look back over the season, he showed up in all the difficult games,” Martins says. “He was often up against very good wingers, and in almost all of them he won his duels.

“He played well against Adama [Traore] but it was nothing new to me! He’s had these kind of games before. It was normal Kostas! 

“I remember him playing against [Magomed-Shapi] Suleymanov of Krasnodar, who is a fantastic winger. He was amazing. He played against [Daniel] Podence and Traore against Wolverhampton and he was amazing.

“Lucas [Moura] of Tottenham, he was perfect. Against Arsenal, [Nicolas] Pepe, he was amazing again. Whoever you confront him with, he steps up.”

Positive words indeed. Martins, clearly, believes Tsimikas has what it takes to cope in the cut-and-thrust of the Premier League.

“Trust me, I know he is ready,” says the 50-year-old. Liverpool will hope his faith is well placed. 

Greek football was hit with a Covid-19-enforced shutdown, like almost all other countries, and while Martins believes the situation was "challenging" he is proud of how the club coped in the circumstances. 

"It was challenging for everybody," he says. "We all have had to adapt to new situations in our lives and in our careers. We've had to change some parts of our methodology, for sure, in how we manage the team and manage the players.

"But this is football, and you must be grateful for what you do.

"When we started individual training [after lockdown], we were very happy of course. We had a long time away, so that was difficult, but the new situation arrived and we went from there.

"We were very happy with the way we performed in the season, of course.  It was a strong season for us, with a difficult end, but we are happy with what we were able to do and looking forward to what we will do in the future."