Theo Zagorakis

Remembering Foxes & AEK Favourite Theo Zagorakis' Remarkable Career

Thodoris Zagorakis is a name known to fans of Leicester City and AEK Athens, with the Greek midfielder playing for both clubs during his distinguished career.
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Born in Kavala, a city in the north of the country, Zagorakis soon found his feet playing for local club Kavala FC, signing as a 17-year-old in 1988.

Over the next four years, he made 114 league appearances, scoring six goals from central midfield and helping his team reach the top flight.

His impressive displays earned a move to Greek giants PAOK, for whom he played over 150 times between 1992 and December 1997, captaining the side in his final two seasons with the club.

Martin O'Neill's Leicester then picked up the PAOK captain and he would spend two successful years at Filbert Street as the Foxes finished 10th in the top flight in 1998/99 and eighth in 1999/00.

After making his debut as a late substitute for Robbie Savage in a 1-0 home victory over Leeds United on 7 February, 1998, the midfielder played a further 67 times for the Club.

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Theo Zagorakis
Theo Zagorakis

After three years at Filbert Street, Theo headed to AEK, where he won the Greek Cup in 2002.

'Theo' is best remembered among the Blue Army for a stunning Premier League goal scored against Manchester United a year later, on 16 January, 1999.

Shifting the ball past United midfielder Roy Keane, the Greece international took aim with his right foot from 30 yards out, finding the corner beyond a desperate dive from Peter Schmeichel.

His spell in England included consecutive League Cup finals, firstly losing to Tottenham Hotspur in 1999, before returning to Wembley Stadium and winning the competition a year later.

City beat Tranmere Rovers in 2000, though Zagorakis was an unused substitute for the final.

Incredibly, Zagorakis also appeared in goal for City, during a 1999/00 League Cup fixture against Crystal Palace, during which goalkeeper Pegguy Arphexad and then replacement Tim Flowers were both forced off the field with injuries.

First Division outfit Palace came from two goals down to draw 3-3 in the first round first leg tie, before Leicester won the second leg to triumph 7-5 on aggregate.

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Theo Zagorakis
Theo Zagorakis

The continent was left stunned in 2004 as Greece beat Portugal 1-0 in Lisbon to win the European Championship.

After the turn of the millennium, AEK Athens were Zagorakis' next destination and again he would bring up a century of appearances for his next club across a four-year stint.

He won the Greek Cup in 2002, beating rivals Olympiacos in the final and finished second behind the beaten finalists in the 2001/02 league championship.

Zagorakis' time in Athens included several UEFA Champions League runs. Having progressed through the third qualifying round in 2002/03, defeating APOEL in the process, Athens came up against AS Roma, Racing Genk and eventual winners Real Madrid in Group C. 

Despite remaining unbeaten in the group stage, drawing all six of their games, AEK were eliminated from the competition and moved into the UEFA Cup, where they knocked out Maccabi Haifa 8-1 on aggregate before losing to Málaga CF over two legs.

Again in 2003/04, Athens defeated Grasshoppers to make the group stage, where they finished bottom of a group also containing Monaco and Deportivo La Coruna - two sides who would go on to reach the semi-finals.

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Theo Zagorakis
Theo Zagorakis

Zagorakis hoists the European Championship trophy to the heavens after completing one of the biggest shocks in modern international football.

The midfielder would go on to play in Italy for Bologna, signing for the Serie A club ahead of UEFA Euro 2004.

It would prove to be a memorable summer for Greece, who were crowned the unlikely tournament winners, beating hosts Portugal in the final, in which Zagorakis was named Man of the Match.

Zagorakis, then 32, was voted UEFA's Player of the Tournament and named in the Team of the Tournament, prior to his one season playing in Italy.

He was also nominated for both the FIFA World Player of the Year award and the Ballon d'Or in 2004, finishing in 17th and fifth place respectively.

Zagorakis returned to former club PAOK a year later, where he saw out the rest of his playing career, before retiring from club and international football in 2007.

With 120 Greece caps to his name, Zagorakis, who was also captain of his national side, became the country's all time leader appearance maker until the record was broken in 2012.

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