While Arsenal’s January transfer window will be remembered by the wider football world for the signings of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the arrival of a 20-year-old Greek defender in north London sent shockwaves through his homeland.
Konstantinos Mavropanos had only made two appearances for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina going into the 2017-18 season but his impressive performances saw the likes of Olympiakos and Udinese scramble over his signature, before Arsenal’s new head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, rang the player’s agent to seal a deal in late December.
Mislintat may have made the final, decisive move but the man who first identified Mavropanos as a potential star was Vasilis Stachtiaris.
Stachtiaris serves as both a scout and an agent for many Greek players. He has been highly involved in the Argentine football market over the past decade, travelling to South America in the hope of finding the next big thing. He even recommended Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez to PAS Giannina only for the Greek side to ignore his advice.
Previously a close ally of PAS owner Giorgos Christovasilis, the scout had an agreement in place with Olympiakos to sign Mavropanos before the centre-half decided he wanted to move abroad, paving the way for his transfer to Arsenal.
Speaking exclusively to Goal, Stachtiaris heaped praise on the Greek Under-21 international, who also impressed Arsene Wenger so much that the Gunners boss decided to keep him at Emirates Stadium instead of sending him out on loan for the remainder of the campaign.
“I grew up in the same neighbourhood with his father, so I’ve technically known Dinos since he was two years old,” Stachtiaris reveals.
“He was at Apollon Symrni for eight-and-a-half years and, when they dropped to the second division, he managed to play in the last two games for the Under-20 side – despite still being a member of the under-17 squad.
“He signed for PAS Giannina in 2016 after I recommended him to Giorgos Christovasilis [PAS owner] and, coincidentally, they come from the same village [Agnanta, Epirus].
“In pre-season (summer 2015), he played with PAS Gianninia and he scored in a friendly game but he wasn’t registered to the club, so Apollon threatened to appeal claiming that it was illegal for him to join PAS.
“He returned to Apollon and stayed there until January. Their former coach Alekos Vosniadis recognised his talent but didn’t offer a professional contract to him.