Raf Diallo looks at a Greek player that has a very long way to go before ever being mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi
Ioannis Fetfatzidis’ moniker as the “Greek Messi” has a little bit to do with his style of play. But there are other parallels. Fetfatzidis joined Olympiacos’ academy aged 12 in 2004 and the club helped him with his growth hormone treatment in much the same way that Barcelona aided Lionel Messi at a similar age.
After six seasons in the multiple Greek champions’ youth ranks, he graduated to the senior team, making his debut in 2009. He made just two Greek Superleague appearances that season, playing a full 90 minutes in that second game against Iraklis and getting an assist.
He also made his Champions League debut in a 2 – 0 defeat against Standard Liege.
He had a more regular role the following season. Making 28 appearances in all club competitions, he found the net six times and made four assists.
That season – 2010/11 – also saw him make his debut for the Greek national team. Making his debut in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Latvia, he became a regular off the bench during that campaign. He was also part of the squad that travelled to Poland for Euro 2012. However he remained on the bench for the entire tournament.
Meanwhile at club level, he scored his first Champions League goal against Marseille in November 2011.
But the 2012/13 season proved a major disappointment as he was left out of Olympiacos line-up regularly, clocking up just 12 league appearances. Despite that, the 22-year-old scored a sublime goal against Panthrakikos in the Greek Cup semi-finals, dribbling past five opponents along the way.
After leaving Olympiacos this summer, Fetfatzidis joined Serie A side Genoa.
Primarily a winger, Fetfatzidis is a mazy dribbler with excellent ball control. He also resembles Lionel Messi when it comes to his diminutive height.
His incisiveness is also aided by his electric pace, which helps him beat opponents.
However those Messi comparisons mask the fact that he is nowhere near Messi’s class. While he has long been seen as Greece’s next big thing, it seems unlikely that big clubs will come calling soon for his signature.
He has not been a first choice at Genoa this season, tending to come off the bench and is yet to make a Serie A start. But he is still a major talent and has time on his side.
He is also likely to be in the Greek squad for the upcoming playoffs against Romania and assuming that Greece prevail, then you may see him making an appearance at the World Cup.