Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Greek: Σωτήρης Κυργιάκος) (born 23 July 1979) is a Greek international football player who currently plays for Liverpool as a Centre back. He is known for his powerful heading.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos made his first football steps with a local team, Thyella Megalochoriou. It did not take long for him to be recognized. At the start of the 1996–97 season he became a member of the Panathinaikos football academy. He lived and played football at the Paiania athletic complex, the club’s training ground. In the wake of the 1999–2000 season he became a member of Agios Nikolaos, a second division club and won the respect of president Lampros Maris whom Sotirios considers as his second father. He stayed with Agios Nikolaos for two years and in 2001 he took part in the pre-season camp at OFI Crete. The centre-back injuries at his parent club, Panathinaikos, just before the 3rd Qualifying round matches with Slavia Prague for the 2000–01 Champions League meant that he had to return to Paiania and become a regular member of the starting line-up. In the season 2003/2004 Sotirios Kyrgiakos won with Panathinaikos the Greek League and Greek Cup against the eternal rival Olympiakos.
The following January, he joined Rangers on loan during the 2004–05 season with a view to a permanent deal. With his new club he won a second consecutive championship and also the Scottish League Cup scoring two goals in the 5–1 win against Motherwell in the final. He initially failed to agree terms with Rangers and held talks with Everton, Portsmouth and Schalke and the Italian club Genoa before finally agreeing a one-year deal with Rangers. He scored a famous winning goal against FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League that year, and ended the season with three goals after also scoring against Peterhead in the Scottish Cup and Dunfermline in the league. He left the club by mutual consent in May 2006 after his contract ran out.
In June 2006 Sotirios signed a 2 year deal with Eintracht Frankfurt. In his first season, he proved to be a fan favourite with some great performances and crucial goals which helped the team avoid relegation. In his second season with the club with more excellent performances he helped the team finish in 9th position. On 1 July 2008, after his 2 year deal expired, Kyrgiakos decided not to renew his contract with the German club, and so was released.
On 1 August 2008, Sotirios agreed to sign for AEK Athens on a five year deal. Due to a number of injuries, Kyrgiakos only made 20 league appearances for AEK but he still established himself as one of the league's best defenders. He played in the Greek Cup Final in 2009 as AEK played Olympiakos in one of the most thrilling games in the history of Greek football. Kygiakos was on the losing side as Olympiakos F.C. won 15–14 on penalties following a 4–4 draw after extra time. Kyrgiakos did not manage to complete the match though having picked up an injury in the 2nd half of the match. AEK were winning 2–1 at the time.
On 21 August 2009 it was announced that he had signed a two-year deal with the option of a further year for Liverpool, for a reported fee of £1 million, becoming the first Greek player to sign for Liverpool. Kyrgiakos wears the number 16 shirt at Anfield and at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) is also the tallest player in the Liverpool squad.
Kyrgiakos scored his first goal for the club against Stoke City F.C. on 16 January 2010 in a 1–1 draw and was named "man of the match" by various British sport sites for his performance in that match. On 17 January 2010, former Liverpool striker and football pundit/journalist Stan Collymore wrote an article acknowledging Kyrgiakos' ability by stating that "Kyrgiakos may be keeping Rafa (Benitez) in a job...". Collymore argued that "Sotirios Kyrgiakos could become an unlikely poster boy for the ’new Liverpool’." He stated, "The big pony-tailed Greek put in a sterling performance at The Britannia and may typify the less football, more grit of the new Reds... And it is no-nonsense men such as Kyrgiakos who like to roll up their sleeves which can keep Rafa in a job right now."  Liverpool's very next game was a crunch-match against Tottenham Hotspur who were perceived as one of the clubs rivalling Liverpool for that all-important 4th position Premier League spot. Liverpool won 2–0 and Kyrgiakos put in another phenomenal performance and was described by Sky Sports as "magnificent". Kyrgiakos' fine form continued in the very next game as Liverpool kept a clean sheet in a 0–0 draw away at Wolverhampton Wanderers on January 26, 2010. An esteemed British sports site rated him as Liverpool's best player that night, he was also voted man of the match in this game by the Liverpool fans on the clubs official website. Meanwhile the legendary Liverpool striker Ian Rush also praised Kyrgiakos, stating that he's ready to fill the void left behind by Sami Hyppia. Kyrgiakos' performances had been so impressive that the British sports journalist, Steven Saunders, identified Kyrgiakos as "One To Watch" in the preview to Liverpool's home game against Bolton on January 30, 2010. Saunders stated, Kyrgiakos' "physical presence in the heart of the defence has been key to a spirited resolve in recent matches. Teams are having to work hard to score against Liverpool, which hadn't always been the case before Kyrgiakos' sustained run in the side". In the build-up to that match the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez also took time to praise Kyrgiakos and make comparisons between Kyrgiakos' role for the club and Sami Hyypia's role when he was at the club, suggesting that Kyrgiakos had established himself as an integral part of the Liverpool squad.
Kyrgiakos was voted "Man Of The Match" against Bolton on January 30, 2010, by the Liverpool fans for the third time in four games (as well as against Stoke and Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Kyrgiakos' brilliant performances during January 2010 saw him voted as Liverpool's official "Player of the Month" by the clubs fans. Kyrgiakos was sent off for a two-footed dive into Marouane Fellaini in the 213th Merseyside Derby between Liverpool FC and Everton FC on February 6, 2010 which eventually ended 1–0 in Liverpool's favour. Fellaini suffered an ankle injury which kept him out until August 2010.
On 29 July, Kyrgiakos started in Liverpool's UEFA Europa League tie against Rabotnicki Skopje and also featured in both play-off ties against Trabzonspor. On 16 September, he partnered Daniel Agger at centre-back for the red's first Europa League group game against Steaua Bucaresti at Anfield, Liverpool cruising to a 4-1 win. On 22 September, he was part of the team that lost to League Two side Northampton Town on penalties in the 3rd round of Carling Cup.
Kyrgiakos scored his second goal in Premier League against Blackpool FC, where Liverpool lost 1-2 at home, giving hope to reds. As instructed by the manager, Kyrgiakos has recently been played up front as a target man at times when Liverpool has been down in the final minutes and has needed a goal. He also scored an important goal against Blackburn Rovers in Premier League win on 24 October 2010 to end Liverpool's run of six games without a win.
Kyrgiakos made his senior international debut on 13 February 2002 against Sweden, and scored his first goal against Norway 1 year later on 13 February 2003. Kyrgiakos missed Greece's Euro 2004 victory through a knee injury sustained against future Rangers team-mate Stefan Klos. He scored three goals during Euro 2008 qualifiers and was selected in the final squad to represent Greece in the final tournament. Sotirios Kyrgiakos also contributed to the qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In a shocking decision, he announced his retirement from the Greek National Team on 13 August 2010. Kyrgiakos ended his international career prematurely with 61 caps and 4 goals for Greece because of in-fighting within the Greek national team squad.
* Greece Panathinaikos
* Scotland Rangers
Standard Chartered Player of the Month: September 2010
1. ^ "Rangers 5–1 Motherwell". BBC Sport. 20 March 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/scot_div_1/4359199.stm. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/"