Kostas Mitroglou has arrived in the Premier League, and I could not be happier. You see, Mitroglou is a perfect example of what is wrong with Greek football, not just at the moment, but for most of recent memory. His career path is one that has been taken by many young Greek footballers over the years, yet it’s a path that has failed to produce any real world-class players. Luckily for Mitroglou, he has gotten out. One can only hope that he has not gotten out too late.
Mitroglou’s youth career started in Germany, where he shined in the youth academies of Duisburg and Borussia Monchengladbach. This shining Greek Starlet, as they usually do, caught the attention of giants Olympiakos, and as they usually do, Olympiakos hoovered him up. Olympiakos generally has a Bayern Munich-esque complex when it comes to football in Greece. They believe that even though they may not use them, all the talented Greek players should play for them. They also like to indulge in the policy of buying up all the best players in the league (much like Bayern) whether they really needed them or not. However, unlike Bayern Munich, Olympiakos have gone through head coaches at a Zamparini-esque clip. Needless to say, Mitroglou had to fight an uphill battle just to even get a sniff of first team action during his time at Olympiakos. It didn’t matter how good he looked on loan at Panionios or Atromitos. It didn’t matter how much he impressed during the pre season, he was never going to be given the full time starter’s spot. Even in his last season and a half, when he really started to come into his own, he had to face competition from the likes of Javier Saviola, Rafik Djebbour, Vladimir Weiss, Djamel Abdoun and Joel Campbell. Luckily for Mitroglou, Djebbour and Abdoun both departed in the summer of 2013, which allowed manager Michel to give him the run of games that got the world focused on him in the first place.
I’ve always been skeptical of players making the jump from the Greek league to any other major league, especially a younger talent like Mitroglou. I’m a firm believer that any young Greek player of any level of talent should leave the Greek Super League immediately and grow their career in a higher quality, better run league. Had Mitroglou stayed at Monchengladbach, would he have shined brighter or earlier than he has now? Obviously that’s impossible to say, but given Gladbach’s struggles at the time, one could see Mitroglou possibly getting a shot at the first team. He certainly wouldn’t have been worse off than his early career at Olympiakos.
But the big point that people keep bringing up is the Champions League. How could Mitroglou give up the allure of playing in the Champions League to go to a club like Fulham? I understand this argument, but when you really break it down, for a team like Olympiakos, Mitroglou is giving up anywhere from 6-8 games in a top competition, while still playing the bulk of his games in a fairly uncompetitive domestic league. The Champions League isn’t going to aid his development in a way that many Oly fans thought it would.