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Name: Kostas Stafylidis
Position: Left back
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Technically gifted and attack-minded, Kostas Stafylidis is the latest in a long line of exciting full backs produced by Greece (Giourkas Seitaridis, Takis Fyssas and Vasilis Torosidis are his predecessors).
A series of eye-catching performances at major tournaments for Greece’s national youth teams, as well as the manner in which he quickly settled at Super League club PAOK as a teenager, meant his future in football would quickly see him depart the Mediterranean.
Indeed, Bayer Leverkusen came knocking in 2012, after his stellar performances as Greece reached the final of the U-19 European Championships. Stafylidis signed a 5-year contract and a transfer fee of €1.5 million was agreed.
The Bundesliga outfit represented a significant step up from the Greek domestic scene and after returning to PAOK on loan as part of the transfer deal (for the 2012/13 season) Stafylidis then attempted to break into the Leverkusen first team.
Unable to do so, the German club decided to loan Stafylidis to Fulham, where he amassed plenty of game time in the Championship without ever finding the form or consistency to secure himself a permanent move. Flashes of inspiration were too often followed by lapses in concentration as the Londoners failed to make their return to the English Premier League.
Stafylidis now returns to Leverkusen, who recently tweeted a message of support for their young Greek starlet, perhaps in response to what was becoming an increasingly difficult sojourn in England.
Indeed, the noises coming from the club suggest Stafylidis will be afforded the chance to establish himself in the first-team this season and it could be prove a key campaign in the blossoming career of the Greece international.
The 21 year-old has all of the attributes to develop into a first-class defender: anticipation, excellent delivery from open play and set-pieces and an ability to balance attacking and defensive duties.
Whether he can stay disciplined and determined enough at one of Germany’s biggest clubs remains to be seen.
Written by Chris Paraskevas
Follow Chris on Twitter @Cparaskevas
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