Monday, June 9, 2008


Full name: Antonios Nikopolidis
Date of birth: October 14, 1971 (1971-10-14) (age 36)
Place of birth: Arta, Greece
Height: 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
Playing position: Goalkeeper
Current club: Olympiacos
National team: 1997-2008

Antonios Nikopolidis (Αντώνης Νικοπολίδης, born 14 October 1971 in Arta, Epirus) is an Epirot football player, a goalkeeper for Olympiacos and the Greek national football team. He is regarded as one of the best Greek goalkeepers of all time having been awarded the most caps in the national team and an integral part in the Euro 2004 triumph. He has the looks of actor George Clooney, and earned the nickname George Clooney from British and European media in the Euro 2004.

The first years and the move to Panathinaikos:
He made his first steps at his local team, Anagennisi Artas, from which he was transferred to Panathinaikos in the summer of 1989, where he was a back-up for Józef Wandzik. He made his debut during 1990/1991 season in a match against his current club, Olympiacos. In 1995 he played five games as Panathinaikos won the championship in 1994/95 and three as they retained it the following year gradually becaming a regular. Since then he has gained a reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the Greek league.

From Panathinaikos to Olympiakos:
In 2002 he helped the club reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals but in 2003/04 he lost his place to Konstantinos Chalkias when his contract negotiations broke down.
Panathinaikos offered him €400,000 per annum which, although it was a pay-rise, he thought was not in line with his contributions to the team over the past 15 years nor with his current market value. As he did not immediately accept the offer the management became suspicious and decided to relegate him to the bench for the rest of the 2003-04 season. The Greek sports media and Panathinaikos fans as well at first took his side in the conflict and criticised president Vardinogiannis for conduct which they saw as a unethical if not blackmail.
Just before the Euro 2004 rumours were circulating that Nikopolidis had been approached by arch-rivals Olympiacos. It was discovered later that he had signed a prenap agreement just before the tournament begun earning him €600,000 per year for 3 years. After that the fans' disappointment in him was displayed during the celebrations following the team's 2003-04 season double when Nikopolidis, while raising the trophy, was booed by the majority of the crowd.
Soon after being instrumental in Euro 2004 helping Greece to lift the trophy, Nikopoldis joined Olympiacos making an immediate impact for his once rival team. Keeping a clean sheet in the first derby against his former club in the process, he went on to win 2 doubles in a row, making him the only Greek player to win 3 consecutive doubles with 2 different clubs. At his new team, Nikopolidis also earned a reputation for making game-winning saves in the most important games. Because of his top-quality performances and consistency he become a figure among Olympiakos fans. Displaying his penalty saving abilities, Nikopolidis saved 3 penalty kicks against AS Roma, Real Madrid, and Rosenborg BK, making him undefeated from the penalty spot in UEFA Champions League football in the Olympiakos shirt. In the 2007-08 season he also equalled the Greek league record for the most penalty kicks saved in one season, which included saves against PAOK FC and former club Panthinaikos.

Rewarding his acclaimed performances during his 4-year stint the club's board decided in January 2008 to re-extend his contract for one more season (after having already extended it for one year before the 2007-8 season) when he will be 39 years of age.

Greek national team:
He made his debut for the Greece national football team on August 18, 1999 against El Salvador. Two years later, Nikopolidis had become the undisputed choice in Greece's goal.
He played in qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and excelled as Greece qualified for UEFA Euro 2004, keeping six clean sheets and not letting in a goal in the three knockout games as he claimed a winners' medal and a place in the All-Star Squad, and was voted goalkeeper of the Euro 2004 All Star team. In UEFA Euro 2004 he played in every game and conceded 3 goals. Nikopolidis was one of the cornerstones of the Greek triumph in Portugal. However, Greece missed out on the 2006 World Cup finals. He became team captain after the retirement of Theodoros Zagorakis but lost his armband to Angelos Basinas after his short relegation to the bench following a rare catastrophic performance in the 1-4 defeat to Turkey in March 2007. In a Euro 2008 group match against Russia, Nikopolidis made a crucial error, failing to maintain his position in front of the goal. This mishap resulted in a first-half Russian goal, which led to a 1-0 defeat for the Greeks and their elimination from Euro 2008. He has featured in a World XI game in 2002, a rare honour for a Greek player.Nikopolidis is first among all goalkeepers in the history of the national team with the most caps (90 after his retirement).
On 15 June 2008, Nikopolidis announced his retirement from international football after Euro 2008, claiming that he had made this decision before the tournament started.

Greek Championship: 1990,1991,1995,1996,2004
Greek Cup: 2004
Greek Championship: 2005 , 2006 , 2007, 2008
Greek Cup: 2005, 2006, 2008
Greek Super Cup: 2007

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