Fulham: Karagounis shows no substitute for experience

Giorgos Karagounis has dropped in lucky to an extent that he will be spending a year in the Premier League at the ripe old age of 35 after being thrown on the scrapheap by Panathinaikos at the end of his contract with the Greek club.

After being indispensable to the Greek national team for the last decade, Karagounis tallied 120 caps at Euro 2012; even the Ethniki had seemingly given up on their captain, leaving him out for the opening games of qualifying for World Cup 2014.

But however, with Martin Jol searching for midfield reinforcements following the late transfer window departures of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey, Karagounis has been summoned to south west London to bolster an area now lacking in the name of experience.

Jol is a keen advocate of youth and his scouting system at Craven Cottage has unearthed the promising talents of Patjim Kasami, Kerim Frei and Alexander Kacaniklic to secure the midfield into the next generation, but with the short term being in drastic need following the departure of Danny Murphy to Blackburn earlier on in the summer, compounded with the last-gasp loss of the two talents to Spurs, Jol has shrewdly called for Karagounis.

He is admittedly not the most obvious solution, at 35 and in the latter autumn of his career, one would doubt the Greek’s adaptability to the hustle and bustle of the physically demanding Premier League, but after a summer of decent business at Fulham, in which Jol has added Mladen Petric, Dimitar Berbatov and Hugo Rodellega to an already well-rounded squad, it is unlikely the Dutch manager would find himself with resources strained to the extent that Karagounis would be playing every game.

Mahamadou Diarra has started the season as Fulham’s central midfield force, but with his own advancing years at the other side of 30, the Greek is likely to be used in tandem with the Malian as Jol seeks to ease the burden.

Murphy’s eventual exit for Blackburn came after Jol failed in repeated attempts to secure the ex-Liverpool man, a superb servant throughout his career, to a new deal, so it is clear that the manager saw enough room in his squad for an experienced midfield member despite the age.

Karagounis definitely fits the bill with a record of 16 years in the professional game, spanning across two spells with Panathinaikos, Inter Milan and Benfiica, as well as that famous underdog triumph at Euro 2004 in which he played such a prevalent role in the engine room of the Greek midfield.

That he has captained Greece to their last two major tournaments, most recently their venture to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, suggests his influence is not yet fully on the decline and Jol has seen fit to take advantage of the wealth of experience he brings to the party.

Just like the combative, all action display Karagounis embodies in midfield which isn’t at all affected by his diminutive 5ft 9 inch frame, the Greek midfielder has refused to even let the basic commodity of time diminish his star as he remains relevant to top level European football in spite of Panathinaikos’ lack of faith.

Martin Jol will still install his faith in the youthful side of the squad at his disposal, but Karagounis, with his undying fight and unyielding honesty in the midfield, will be as vital tool as any to Jol’s transitional squad.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow him on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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