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Name: Kostas Manolas
Club: AS Roma
A rising star of European football, Manolas made his name in Greece with AEK Athens before a controversial move to their city rivals Olympiacos (his uncle Stelios Manolas was an AEK legend).
After a series of eye-catching performances with the Greek giants saw him linked with a number of big-name European suitors, Manolas made the 23-man Greece squad for the 2014 World Cup.
It was in Brazil where the centre-back really caught the attention of the watching world, with a string of imperious displays that carried Greece into the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in its history.
AS Roma promptly snapped up the towering defender for a reported €15 million fee and Manolas has adjusted well during his first season in Serie A, making 30 starts for the Giallorossi in the league and starting all six of their UEFA Champions League matches.
The most impressive feature of Manolas’ development as a footballer is arguably off the field, where he has developed into a natural leader at his new club despite being only 24.
An uncompromising central defender who blends physicality with an increasingly effective passing game, Manolas’ speciality remains in one-on-one situations, where his physique and aggression serve him particularly well.
He is also a deceptively quick footballer, given his size, able to sweep up behind a high-line but also having the versatility and discipline to play deeper.
In a way, Manolas is a blend of the old-fashioned centre-half and the new-age ball-playing defender, which should make him an appealing prospect to bigger clubs ahead of the 2015-16 season.
Having made a seamless transition from the Greek domestic scene to a Champions League club, the Greece international has a bright future ahead of him.
Written by Chris Paraskevas
Follow Chris on Twitter @Cparaskevas
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