Dino Marcou provides a scout report which analyses Greece’s latest defensive starlet, Panagiotis Retsos.
Panagiotis Retsos falls into the list of defensive rocks that top domestic teams in Greece have impressively produced over recent years. At the tender age of 19, the solid, intelligent defender has already played twice for his country, impressive in this day and age for a defender. Retsos, being born in South Africa, was eligible to represent Greece through his familial heritage, and made his senior international debut on 31st August 2017 in a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Estonia in Pireaus. Retsos became the youngest captain of a Greek title winner aged only 18, an achievement that will take many years to be beaten. He is a young footballer with pretty much the world at his feet.
Who is Panagiotis Retsos?
Panagiotis Retsos was born in Johannesburg, South Africa to Greek parents and took his initial steps in football at Greek giants Olympiakos, playing for their youth side between 2008 to 2016. The Greek international was then promoted from Olympiakos’ youth team by manager Victor Sanchez and notably turned professional in 2016. Sanchez was impressed with a number of his credentials, most notably his stamina and great composure on the ball.
Retsos ultimately attracted the interest of many European clubs. Olympiakos did not want to sell their prized assets at first, resisting offers at first. But Retsos was eventually sold to German giants Bayer Leverkusen, who had to fight off interest from French clubs Olympique Lyon and Stade Rennais in the process. He is a versatile centre half, despite playing mainly as a central defender at Olympiakos, and can play across the backline as well as in defensive midfield. That versatility would make him an attractive option for the manager he is working under. Standing at 1.85 metres tall (6 ft 1″), his height is an attractive characteristic that he has at his disposal and allows him to be a threat in the air. He would be good at dealing with set piece situations whether it be carrying out his defensive duties or going up for a set piece in an attacking situation. That being said, his versatility will be an asset for Bayer Leverkusen and his country in his overall development as he rises up the ladder in the game.
Retsos’s breakthrough to stardom for Olympiakos came when the young defender showed enormous qualities in his leadership skills, so much so that he was appointed captain of the club in a Greek Cup match. Aside from his effective leadership, a skill that can be seen as a dying breed, it was impressive for a young player to show such great leadership at a young age whilst also being very consistent in his defensive duties. In Greece, playing away from home can be very intimidating, especially against bitter city rivals Panathinaikos and AEK Athens, and it was a great confidence booster for Retsos, who has only increasingly grown into his role over time.
What is his Style of Play?
Panagiotis Retsos can be likened to AS Roma’s centre back and fellow Greek Kostas Manolas, and can follow in his successful footsteps that he has had in his career so far. He is a tall defender and reads situations very well; he is quick and often cuts out the situation before it arises. His aforementioned versatility makes him a versatile option. The Greek teenager has maturity, composure and calmness way beyond his tender years, and is way ahead of his time.
Bayer Leverkusen are a club that like to play out from the back, and this can benefit Retsos. He shows tremendous composure on the ball and can start attacks and play out from the back effectively well. The young defender never shies away from a challenge and is often positively aggressive and effective in a 1v1 situation and does not let many players get past him. Retsos carries out his work very professionally and can be a future leader of the Greek national team. Ever since their shock Euro 2004 triumph, they have not had a good stable squad, which is why they have come up short and lack the quality needed to stay on track with bigger countries. Standing at 6’1″ and only being 19, Retsos has the potential to grow even more in height, and with his height being a great advantage, he can head the ball well and can be effective when going up for a set piece for his side.
What are his Strengths?
In an attacking sense, Retsos is collectively sound and specialises in many attacking departments. He is effective in the air and would cause many teams problems aerially. At his previous side Olympiakos the set-piece deliverer would often try to find him as they knew he would be a danger. Despite his young age, Retsos possesses a great deal of composure and calmness on the ball, whilst relying on his natural game-reading intelligence to get him through the match. Retsos is a level-headed player and does not show any aggression that could cause a major hindrance for his overall development in the game.
What are his Weaknesses?
The problem with defenders in the modern game is that they are so often taught by coaches to play out from the back, so much so that the true art of natural old school defending goes out of the window. This could be said with Retsos, as despite his great ball playing composure on the ball, he should release the ball quicker, in case he gets caught out from the attackers. He may get away with it in the Greek League but in the Bundesliga, you cannot be so predictable otherwise you will get found out by better attackers, which would lead to lesser gametime and ultimately the stagnation of his progression and development. If Retsos wants to develop his game, he will need to stay consistent and learn from his more experienced team mates. Young players in the game do not have the desire to learn and believe that they know it all, so in this sense he needs to learn more and this will only come with experience.
It is very natural that a player will need a lot of time to adjust to the demands of playing in a different country, the lifestyle and style of football under a new coach. However, Retsos has climbed the footballing ladder tremendously well since his rise to the first team at Olympiakos, which therefore suggests he is here for the long term and can have a very successful career in Germany and potentially elsewhere. He will no doubt look to continue his great rise in the game so far and will look to be the player that Bayer Leverkusen builds around for the future. Olympiakos opened the door for this opportunity to happen as they truly knew that he was unique and it would be the perfect chance for the Greek to play his trade abroad. He could go on to be one of Europe’s best defenders in the future.
- Scout Report: Panagiotis Retsos | Greece’s newest defensive rock - November 28, 2017