Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis has taken the MLS by storm, emerging as the unexpected recipient of the prestigious Newcomer of the Year Award.
Giakoumakis outshined Lionel Messi who has just secured his unprecedented eighth Ballon d’Or award, thanks to his phenomenal performance in Argentina’s triumph at the World Cup in Qatar.
The Greek striker’s achievement has made history for Atlanta United, becoming the first team to win the consecutive accolade since Messi’s compatriot Thiago Almada was honored in 2022.
Giakoumakis, who moved from Scottish giants Celtic in February, made an immediate impact in his first season, leaving an indelible mark on the league. With an impressive tally of 17 goals and three assists in 27 games, his consistent performances earned him votes from a wide range of MLS stakeholders, including reporters, players, coaches, as well as technical staff.
Giakoumakis secured an impressive 45.8 percent of the votes, surpassing his fellow finalists Messi (27.3 percent) and Eduard Lowen of St. Louis City SC (15.4 percent).
The striker fully comprehends the significance of this award and expressed his utmost gratitude upon receiving it. “I’m really happy and satisfied for winning this trophy,” he said. “It has different gravity when you win and you’re competing against Messi. So I think the gravity of this prize is even bigger right now.”
Giakoumakis’s career before the MLS
The 29-year-old striker climbed from the lower divisions of the Greek soccer league to become an international player for the Greek National Team.
He started his career at Atsalenios. In 2012, he signed for Platanias and he debuted for the club in a 3–2 win against Skoda Xanthi, coming in as a substitute in the 78th minute.
In January 2014 he signed for Episkopi on loan until the end of the season and he made a total of 11 appearances and scoring two goals. He returned to Platanias, starting playing more often in the 2014–15 season and on 26 April 2015, he scored his first Superleague goal, in a 2–0 home win Panetolikos.
On 26 June 2017, Giakoumakis joined AEK Athens on a four-year contract. On 20 December, he scored his first goal with the club in a 4–0 away Greek Cup win against Panetolikos. On 4 February, he scored as a late substitute in stoppage time in 2–1 away win game against champions Olympiacos. It was his first goal in Super League with AEK.
After stints at OFI, Polish club Górnik Zabrze and Dutch club VVV-Venlo, on 31 August 2021, the last day of the summer transfer window, he signed for Scottish Premiership club Celtic on a five-year contract for a fee of £2.5 million.
Giakoumakis later became linked to both Atlanta United FC and Urawa Red Diamonds in January, with multiple reports indicating Atlanta offering a transfer fee of £4.3 million. Celtic confirmed his transfer on 8 February 2023.
On 5 March 2023, Giorgos Giakoumakis made his MLS debut, playing in Atlanta’s 1–1 draw with Toronto FC.