Sakis Anastasiadis on Tsimikas: «He didn’t even touch the ball in his first training»

A neighbor, a friend, a manager. Sakis Anastasiadis took 15 year-old Kostas Tsimikas in Panserraikos without having watched him touching the ball and, three years later, he “gave” him to Olympiakos. Read Mr Anastasiadis’ ful interview in!

Until turning 15, Kostas Tsimikas was “following” his two-year older brother’s steps, Stergios. However, that meant they should take on the trials in the U20 team of Panserraikos together and, on one hand, Stergios would stand up and easily be accepted by first glance, but on the other one, Kostas would come across 18-19 year-old players “filling” the space while he was still small-shaped and too thin to follow their tempo. The coach, Sakis Anastasiadis, did take the risk then, and the rest is just history…

The career of Kostas Tsimikas, Jurgen Klopp’s new transfer acquisition, began in the Academy of Neapoli, in Thessaloniki, where Tsimikas family lived.

It was there that the two brothers first learned and practiced football, until at least their teenage years and under the instructions of Nikos Pelitoglou, showing that they have much talent and great prospect. Their coach told how young Kostas was giving the impression that “he has it”.

Tsimikas family really tried for their kids to become professional football players and, in 2011, the dad attempted to send the boys to Panserraikos, a team in Serres, Northern Greece, their place of origin. Back then, only the U20 team featured in the team’s Academy and that made things really difficult for the 15 year-old Kostas.

Κώστας Τσιμίκας: Στα… κόκκινα από τότε -

The U20s manager, Sakis Anastasiadis, took an untold risk and some years later he was eventually rewarded, as proved by reality and everything Andreas Pantziaras (Tsimikas’ last coach in Serres) told recenlty.

Today, few days after the official announcement of Kostas Tsimikas’ transfer to Liverpool, Mr Anastasiadis talks to for the new “Greek God” of the English fans…

Kostas came to Panserraikos with his brother, Stergios, in the age of 15 and 17 respectively. How did this move from an Academy in Thessaloniki to Panserraikos U20 happen? It was pursued by their dad, right?

«First of all, Kostas’ family is originated from Leukonas, a village next to the city of Serres. They lived in Thessaloniki, the boys were born in Thessaloniki. I knew his dad and, because his trust to managers in general wasn’t big enough, he decided to bring his kids to us, when Kostas was 15. Panserraikos only had the U20s then, but that team had already won three greek championships. So, his father took the decision to bring the kids to Serres, because of the locality and the trust on me.

So they came for a training session. The older, Stergios, was standing out, he had great elements. Konstantinos though, didn’t even touch the ball in this first training! Personally, I didn’t want to be exposed to the board and the club, I wanted to just have, to just see something that I would support on Kostas. But it was difficult, he didn’t even touch the ball. He was 15 and played with 18 and 19 year-old lads.

His father had previously paid – on his own – a few thousands of euros to release the kids from Neapoli, so I thought I should support his sacrifice and so I had to – cause there were no U17s or U15s – take Konstantinos in the U20s too.

I was always careful not to burden him, cause, you know, the volumes were too high for him. But that was positive in some way too, as Konstantinos was playing with older, better and high level players, and that helped him.

Σ.Αναστασιάδης: Στο ματς με την Καβάλα θα τεστάρουμε τους εαυτούς ...

When did you start realizing that Kostas is more than just another player?

«At start, he was cautious, he tried, but didn’t manage well. However, what I was noticing on him, was that even though he was inferior to the others regarding body structure and he was younger, there were many times that he would challenge bigger and older boys and I was noticing that the kiddo would not fear anything! And moreover, he was not only challenging them, but most of the times he was the winner! I was impressed by his tenacity, his toughness, his passion. He confronted everyone as per equal against equals».

Were you keeping in contact outside training? How was he as growing and approaching adulthood?

«We had some contact, especially because of Stergios who was older and constantly next to him. I used to tease Kostas a lot. I used to see him after training in the village with other teen friends of him – they were school students yet. They were usually gathering in a square, sitting on benches, and I used to pass by and tease Kostas, shouting “Hey! What are you doing there? Leader of the… gang? Are you guys planning a robbery?” (laughs). That kind of stuff».

Had he realized that sooner or later he would make the big step or he got that “message” after Olympiakos made the official offer for him?

«In his second year with U20, he was a starter, we even won the championship then. After that, when Mr Theodoridis died next year, I took on the first team. I promoted the “reserves” that season, we literally played with all the players from the U20s, so Kostas was promoted to the first team too».

It was his talent or the hard work that granted him the career he is having? Or both?

«I would say both. I would give bigger percentage to the hard work, the discipline, the focus and tenacity he had. Cause if we see his route afterwards, things weren’t easy for him in Olympiakos either. He was loaned out, struggling to feature, went to Denmark, to the Netherlands, but we all saw that wherever he went, to countries he didn’t know where you can say that adjustment should be an issue, Kostas came back better both times, and that means that he has a very strong soul and heart».

Could you discriminate one advantage and disadvantage of his playing style?

«As known, when we had him in Panserraikos, he was playing as a winger. The attacking part is his advantage. The defending one could come to the same level, cause I think he is a bit less strong in defense. So, if there shoud be a weakness, it should be there. But he has improved a lot in recent years, regarding his defensive thinking, thinking before the attacker and foreseeing the next move. I had told him back then, that the good defender foresees the next move, the very good defender foresees the next two moves and, so, that he should act respectively».

Have you talked to each other after he completed the move to Liverpool and, if yes, what did you say to him? What do you wish him?

«I only sent him a message, it wasn’t possible to talk. We talk almost every day with his brother Stergios. This period, it is difficult to talk to him, he was in England, everyone was working on him [laughs]. We will have a chat soon, when the situation calms down, that’s for sure. I wish him to show the same will power, the same tenacity, the same dedication that he showed until today, and to be happy, to live his dream that now becomes a reality».

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