Kostas Manolas: Who is the Greek defender linked with Liverpool?

With AS Roma defender Kostas Manolas linked with Liverpool this week, Martin King has taken the opportunity to bring you a detailed scout report on the versatile Greek international.

For the English Premier League, summer along with its heated transfer market hasn’t arrived yet, in fact, the viewing world is still witnessing a huge battle to secure a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League campaign between five clubs – amongst other intriguing battles in the top flight.

However amidst all this, transfer rumours linking a number of players to a few of these clubs have remained an ever-present, one of which has been reported by the Mirror as a tussle involving Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United for a defender by the name of Kostas Manolas.

Manolas, who plays for Italian Serie A giants Roma, is a highly rated centre-back who has been on the radar of Premier League sides for a number of years.

In truth, he could end up anywhere in the summer if he moves away from Italy but that Liverpool is a possible destination is a worthy-enough talking point.

That said, just who is Kostas Manolas, what are the defender’s best qualities, does he fit the Reds’ profile for a new centre-back and if so, can Jürgen Klopp attract him to Anfield?

Profiling Kostas Manolas

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Manolas began his career in his home nation of Greece, starting out as a youth player at Thrasyvoulos in 2007, before moving to AEK Athens just two years later.

It was in the nation’s capital that the defender started gaining widespread attention, impressively picking up five Man of the Match awards in his first seven matches. Manolas also scored his first professional goal in the 2009/10 season, making a good impression on then coach Manolo Jiménez, earning him a regular place in the Athens team the following season.

A few more goals, Man of the Match awards and a first career trophy would follow at Athens for Manolas and the Greek left his boyhood club in 2012 following the expiry of his contract, with AEK Athens’ financial struggles playing a big role in his departure.

Manolas joined rivals Olympiacos on a free-transfer thereafter, continuing his personal rise by making 24 league appearances in the 2012/13 season, helping them win the Greek Super League. Manolas also played an important role in Olympiacos’ victory in the Greek Cup final, helping the club secure a league and cup double.

In the following season, the centre-back’s performances finally earned him a call-up to the Greece national team and he would receive the honour of representing his nation at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. There, Manolas grew his reputation with a number of strong performances, as part of a Greek side that made it to the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in the country’s history.

His displays for his country then earned him a €15 million move to current side Roma.

Manolas continued to increase his stock in both Italian and Champions League football, establishing himself as one of the club’s first choice defenders following the departure of Medhi Benatia to Bayern Munich. The Greek centre-back was also named Roma’s “best purchase of the season” via a fan poll that saw him win 56 percent of votes and he has since remained one of the club’s top defenders, a first choice in all competitions with over 100 appearances for Roma and at the top of many a European heavyweight’s wish-list.

What are Manolas’ outstanding qualities?

For a man who possesses great height – standing at six feet and two-and-a-half inches tall – Manolas is blessed with excellent speed and concentration, helping him keep track of attacking opponents of all sizes.

His strength means he never shies away from a physical challenge and that coupled with a decent tackling ability makes him a tough opponent to play against.

Manolas is often viewed as a good combination of old-school and new-school defending. As much as he commits his physical traits to staying at the back and protecting his goalkeeper, he also possesses the versatility to drive forward and contribute to his team’s attacks (as evidenced by the goals and assists he has earned in his career).

Commitment to the cause and a bold spirit is never out of reach for the Greek defender. In May 2010, while still playing for AEK Athens, Manolas suffered a broken jugal bone in the first minute of a match against Olympiacos. The Greek still managed to score a goal before being taken off in the 15th minute, however, even then refused to be taken to a hospital until the match was over.

The centre-back doesn’t lack leadership and ambition either, as upon joining Roma he boldly said, “Benatia is a brilliant player. But he’s the past; I’m the present.

“The club has big goals. I want to win the Scudetto, as does the whole squad. We can also go far in the Champions League.”

 Can Klopp attract Manolas to Anfield?

The Anfield faithful have been calling for a new top class signing to partner Jöel Matip at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, in fact, a number of the Merseysiders’ performances this season have been crying out for one.

With the qualities Manolas possesses as well as his top-level experience in consideration, the question, “Does he fit the Reds’ profile for a new centre-back?” can be comfortably ignored because it’s quite obvious that he’s a shoe-in!

However, as with every top class player linked with Liverpool nowadays, the question ‘Can Klopp attract him to Anfield?’ is the most important.

In reiteration of the Mirror’s recent report, Liverpool face very strong competition for Manolas from Manchester United and Arsenal, who apparently had a £35 million bid for the Greek defender rejected by Roma last summer. A return for the defender by the Gunners and a number of other top European clubs this coming summer would be wisely expected.

Still, there seems to be some hope for Liverpool, as it was also reported by the Mirror that Klopp sent one of his top scouts to watch Manolas in the Europa League last week when Roma beat French side Lyon in the second leg of their quarter-final match. Add to that another rumour is that Manolas recently rejected a contract extension from the Romans, over issues regarding wages and Liverpool can certainly claim to have a chance at making what should be a big steal this summer.

One aspect key to attracting the Greek powerhouse will definitely be the availability of Champions League football, achieve that and Klopp’s men should be a step closer to both the defender and other top targets.

Wherever Kostas Manolas ends up, though, he will surely make a ground-breaking impact. He will come at a hefty price, demand first team football and only the best from both himself and his teammates, as he seeks to continue his personal rise into Greek greatness.

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