Zagorakis during his first period at PAOK, poses inside Tumba Stadium
Theodoros Zagorakis (Greek: Θεόδωρος Ζαγοράκης, born October 27, 1971 in Lydía (a village near the city of Kavala), is a retired Greek footballer. He was the captain of the Greece national football team that won the 2004 UEFA European Football Championship, and is the current president of PAOK F.C..
Zagorakis was a defensive midfielder who usually operated on the right hand side of midfield. He started his career with Kavala, the club that also produced Zisis Vryzas, with whom he became close friends. Zagorakis was crucial in helping Kavala win promotion to the Greek second division.
In the 1992–93 season, Zagorakis left Kavala as a winter transfer to join PAOK, part of a string of star-transfers made that season by Giorgos Batatoudis. He played for PAOK until December 1997, and also captained the squad in his last two seasons. He rose to become an iconic figure for the fans.
Zagorakis left in another winter transfer window to Leicester City. While in England, he took part in two consecutive League Cup finals at Wembley Stadium, losing the first against Tottenham Hotspur in 1999 and defeating Tranmere Rovers in the second. Nevertheless, he was disappointed with Martin O'Neill's reluctance to use him regularly and decided to return to Greece.
He moved to Athens based football club of AEK Athens, and played alongside fellow countrymen such as Michalis Kapsis, Vassilis Lakis, Demis Nikolaidis and Vassilios Tsiartas. With AEK, Zagorakis won the Greek Cup in 2002 against rivals Olympiacos.
On July 14, 2004, he left AEK Athens for Bologna, signing a two-year contract worth €1.5 million per year. In Serie A's season, Zagorakis was a regular feature in the team's squad but the team found itself relegated to Serie B after a play-out series against Parma FC. In the following summer he was released from the team as they couldn't afford his payroll under the new conditions.
Zagorakis eventually signed a 2-year contract with PAOK for as little as €700000 a year. When Zagorakis landed at Makedonia Airport in Thessaloniki, 7000 supporters were there to welcome him back.
Zagorakis received his first cap for Greece on September 7, 1994, against the Faroe Islands. He scored his first goal against Denmark in 2006 World Cup qualifying, in Athens, while earning his 101st cap. Numbering 120 caps, Zagorakis is Greece's all-time leader in international games played, earning his 100th against Kazakhstan on November 17, 2004, and the team's longest-serving captain.
Zagorakis played an important role in Greece's win in the 2004 European Championships, and was named the Player of the Tournament by UEFA. FIFA named Zagorakis as a contender for the 2004 FIFA World Player of the Year award (he finished in 17th place), as well as UEFA named him for the 2004 European Footballer of the Year award (he finished in the 5th place). He holds the record of most consecutive matches (57) (except one in 2006 because of injury) of the national team (due to either injury or not selection) since his first cap in a period of 12 years.
After fourteen full playing years as the captain for Greece, Zagorakis announced his retirement from international football on October 5, 2006. On August 22, 2007, however, he played for the last time with the national side, in a special friendly match against Spain in Toumba Stadium, Salonica. He played for about 15 minutes and was then replaced by Giannis Goumas, receiving an applause by fans singing his name.
On May 28, 2007, after the fifth Greek Superleague All-Star Game, Zagorakis announced his retirement from professional football. After many widespread rumours, it was announced that he was to become PAOK's new president, on June 18.
The club had been in dire financial straits for several years. Zagorakis undertook to sort out finances by attracting investors, increasing revenue and mobilizing the club's fan base. In his unifying first statement he said: "The strength of PAOK lies in its supporters, its fans...I would have not made this decision" (to retire from playing and assume administration) "if i did not love my club. The situation for PAOK is very difficult and I will not try to hide its problems; instead I will do all I can to solve the pressing financial issues.".
Soon he set about restructuring the club's debt and team, and recruited former teammmate Zisis Vryzas as technical director. As of late 2008, PAOK has been able to pay off most of its accumulated debt, seen a steady increase in ticket sales and advertising revenue, and team performance on the field has improved considerably, under the coaching of renowed Portuguese manger Fernando Santos.
On December 15, 2008, Zagorakis announced a major issue of new stock by the club, valued at 22.3 million euros. He appealed to small investors and stated that, although it is unlikely that the entire sum could be covered in a worldwide crisis environment, he felt confident that the expected influx of capital would enable PAOK finally to put its past problems behind and focus on future growth.
On October 8, 2009 Zagorakis surprised fans and press alike by announcing his decision to quit the presidency. In a short announcement on the club's official website, he cited that personal problems have led him to this decision. He was rapidly replaced by his close friend Zisis Vryzas.
Nevertheless, he kept close contact with his former associates, and also frequently attended the club's home games alongside Vryzas. Zagorakis finally changed his mind and on January 20 he reprised his position as president, with Vryzas stepping down to assume the post of vice president.
* Zagorakis is married to former fashion model Joanna Lilli; they have two children, a boy and a girl.
* League Cup: 1
* Greek Cup: 1
* European Championship: 1
* European Championship 2004 UEFA Team of the Tournament: 1
* European Championship 2004 UEFA Player of the tournament: 1
1. ^ http://www.rsssf.com/miscellaneous/zagorakis-intl.html
* Official website (Greek) / (English)
Zagorakis was the first Greek player to lift the Euro 2004 Cup, as he is the captain of the National team