Antonis Nikopolidis has announced he is retiring from the game of football after meeting with Olympiacos CFP executives on Monday. The former Greece international has decided to call it quits after twenty-years in the game.
A native of Arta, Greece, Nikopolidis’ youth career was given a boost when he signed his first professional contract with local club Anagennisi Artas. Impressing in his hometown, Nikopolidis was scouted by Panathinaikos and he moved to Athens with the Trifylli in 1988.
He quickly found his way to the starting ‘keeper’s position at Panathinaikos, and made many memorable appearances for the club while winning five league titles, five Greek Cups, and two Greek Super Cups.
After spending fifteen seasons at Panathinaikos, Nikopolidis’ contract was set to expire during the summer of 2004, and with Panathinaikos not willing to offer their long-standing shot-stopper a contract to the ‘keeper’s standards, Nikopolidis’ contract talks broke down and Kostas Chalkias displaced Nikopolidis as the starting ‘keeper in the Panathinaikos ranks.
Still, Nikopolidis was the first-choice ‘keeper for Greece coach Otto Rehhagel and the German manager stuck with his number one at EURO 2004. Nikopolidis didn’t let his manager nor his country down as Greece stamped their mark in international football by defying the odds in Portugal. Shocking football fans everywhere, Nikopolidis back-stopped Greece all the way to the EURO 2004 crown as Greece upset the likes of Portugal, Spain, Russia, EURO 2000 winners France, and the Czech Republic en route to winning continental honours in Lisbon.
Nikopolidis joined Olympiacos shortly after Greece’s triumph at EURO 2004 and his golden streak continued with the Erythroleuki as he played a large part in the club’s domestic successes, winning five league titles, four Greek Cups, and one Greek Super Cup — combining for two domestic doubles in that span.
Criticism likely led to Nikopolidis’ decision to retire from the Greek national team in 2008, with Greece’s 2-1 loss to Spain at EURO 2008 marking his final appearance as a member of the Galanoleuki.
While his performances with Olympiacos were sometimes debated by the club’s most-loyal supporters, his abilities were never questioned, particularly on occasions where he kept his side in numerous matches.
In European competition, Olympiacos’ endeavours in the UEFA Champions Champions League and the UEFA Cup were not as glorious, but Nikopolidis did backstop the Piraeus giants to two appearances in the first knockout round of the former where the then Greek Champions bowed out against Chelsea FC and FC Girondins de Bordeaux.
Nikopolidis’ retirement leaves a large hole in Olympiacos’ starting line-up, the 39-year-old seemingly owning the starting spot in the Olympiacos line-up, starting in the majority of the club’s matches since his arrival in the port city.
It is not known who Olympiacos will now target for their starting keeper role, but Portugal international Daniel Fernandes had been named in early speculation ahead of this summer’s transfer window.
Nikopolidis’ role with the club after his retirement is also uncertain; though speculation has it he could be given a role with the club as an ambassador.
Nikopolidis quits after 20 years of Service