Greek football stunned the world when the men’s senior team won the final of the 2004 European Championships. Despite that notable success, relatively few Greek players have earned their living in any of the big leagues around the world.
There have been some notable exceptions, and here are the best Greek footballers to have played in the English Premier League.
The Best Greek Players in the EPL history
Defender Nikos Dabizas was part of the Greek squad that won the 2004 Euros, and he won 70 senior caps for his country. At that stage in his career, he was playing for Leicester City, having joined the club from Newcastle United.
Dabizas came to English football from Olympiacos in 1998. He stayed with Newcastle for five years before joining Leicester, where he earned a reputation as a tough and respected centre back. Dabizas was one of the most reliable of all defenders during his time in England and he later finished his career back in Greece with AEL.
Attacking midfielder, Stelios Giannakopoulos was also playing in English football when his Greece side won the European Championships in 2004. The player had signed for Bolton Wanderers from Olympiacos a year earlier, and his stylish and skillful play made him a fan favorite.
Giannakopoulos had a good assist record, and he enjoyed a solid percentage of goals for a winger, and in five seasons with Bolton, he scored 28 goals. Stelios Giannakopoulos moved across the Premier League to Hull City in 2008, but his stay was brief, and he returned to Greece with AEL after just three games.
Midfielder Giorgos Karagounis’ international career spanned a long 15 years from 1999 to 2014. He claimed the record for the most appearances for the Greek senior side, with 139 caps, and he played a full part for his country at Euro 2004.
Many English clubs were linked with Karagounis’ signature after that successful 2004 campaign, but he came to the Premier League much later. Fulham signed the player in 2012, and he spent the next two seasons at Craven Cottage. While he was at the end of his career, Giorgos Karagounis still showed the class that made him one of Greece’s finest ever players.
Football fans in the UK will remember Georgios Samaras’ time with Celtic when he proved to be a regular goalscorer. Either side of that spell in Scotland, the striker played for two English clubs.
Samaras joined Manchester City from Dutch side Heerenveen in 2006, but couldn’t quite transfer his scoring form across from Holland to England. He scored some important strikes, but a record of 12 goals in 54 games eventually led to his move to Scotland. Samaras later played five games in the Premier League for West Brom without scoring. He was one of Greece’s finest players at the time, but English supporters didn’t see the best of Georgios Samaras.
A left-sided player, José Holebas was born in Germany, but his heritage saw him confirm allegiance to the Greek national side. He won 38 caps for his country, and played in England with Watford for five years.
Holebas joined the Hornets from Roma in 2015 and featured as a Premier League player for the next five seasons. He was a versatile member of the squad, and could play as a left back, or on the left side of midfield. He helped Watford compete and stay in the EPL and José Holebas was part of the team that reached the final of the FA Cup in 2019.
Greek international centre half Konstantinos Mavropanos is still playing in the Premier League as of 2024. He has featured for two EPL clubs, initially joining Arsenal from PAS Giannina in 2018.
Mavropanos is a tough defender who showed good early promise, but most of his time at the Gunners was spent on loan at other clubs. He made just seven EPL appearances in three seasons before joining Vfb Stuttgart, but he’s now back in England with West Ham United. Hopefully, English fans will now get to see the best of Konstantinos Mavropanos.
Kostas Tsimikas is another Greek player still involved in English football. From 2020, he’s been on the books at Liverpool, after joining the Merseyside club from Olympiacos. The defender had already made his debut for the Greece national team at that point, and Liverpool spotted his potential.
The highlight of his Liverpool career to date came in 2022 when he scored the winning penalty in the FA Cup final shootout against Chelsea. Injury has interfered with his progress, but Kostas Tsimikas should have a bright future in the EPL when he returns to fitness.
Another player to have won over 100 senior caps for his country, Theodoros Zagorakis, is one of the early Greek footballers in the Premier League. After making his name with PAOK, Leicester City acquired his signature in 1998, and he played with the East Midlands club for three seasons.
Zagorakis is one of the few Greek players to have won major honours in English football, as he was part of the team that won the EFL Cup in 2000. His stay was brief, but it was successful, and Theodoros Zagorakis made his mark on the Premier League.
Centre back Sokratis Papastathopoulos has enjoyed a long career which has seen him play for many top teams around Europe. His journey took him to Arsenal in 2018, and he became an important part of Unai Emery’s team.
Papastathopoulos was one of the better players as the club struggled to come to terms with life after Arsene Wenger. He claimed an FA Cup winner’s medal with the Gunners in 2020, but was moved on to Olympiacos at the start of the following season.
While Greek football isn’t as strong as it was in the mid-2000s, scouts from the English Premier League will continue to monitor its best players. From 2004 onwards, when the national side won the European Championship, major teams have taken more interest in players from Greece.
We’ve seen that Greek players are currently involved in the EPL, and that shows that the country can still produce footballers capable of competing at the top level.