Charalampos Mavrias 19 Midfielder Sunderland Greece
2013 has been…
Getting gradually worse. At the point of his inclusion in The IBWM 100 in December last year, Charis Mavrias was really beginning to move up through the gears. After a string of impressive performances for the Greece under-19 team at the youthful version of Euro 2012, the attacking midfielder/winger/second striker was fast-tracked to the full national squad for a friendly against Norway. Although not selected to play, Mavrias would go on to win his first cap in the World Cup Qualifier against Lithuania later in the year and became a regular starter for Panathanaikos.
By the end of the year, Mavrias really looked to be hitting form and 2013 was all about optimism and excitement. Scoring the first and then setting up journeyman Spanish striker Toché for a tap in against Olympiakos earned the 18-year-old a man of the match award. In notching, he also become the youngest ever goalscorer in the ‘Derby of the eternal enemies’.
As 2012 turned to 2013, Mavrias’ place in the hearts of Trifylli fans, and in the starting line up of their team, was assured. With the ability to attack and switch flanks with minimal fuss, the young Greek is an absolute bundle of tricks on the ball and specialises in those ‘eye of a needle’ passes to fellow attacking personnel. With such ability regularly evidenced in the Superleague, Mavrias was closely monitored by a number of clubs and the prospect of retaining the young midfielder past September already looked beyond his employer.
However, those displays at the European Championships and that rapid acceleration through the ranks at club and international level came at a price. Just as he was hitting his 19th birthday in February this year, Mavrias was visibly running out of steam in a lethargic Panaside which slogged its way to sixth in the league. Their joint lowest finish in the last fifty years.
As mentioned, Mavrias’ ability did not go unnoticed and while significant names from the Bundesliga maintained an interest, it was a cold, hard €3m offer from Sunderland that twisted the arm of Panathanaikos sporting director Dimitris Saravakos.
Completing his move to the north east on 22 August, Mavrias, who hadn’t played a competitive match since March, was understandably off the pace when he arrived on Wearside for pre-season training. As the club’s 11th summer signing, Mavrias was introduced as back up for another recent arrival, Emanuele Giaccherini.
Making his first, and so far only league start for Sunderland against Arsenal in September, The Zakynthos born winger really looked the part during the first half especially, but with his team behind against the run of play, and unable to convert their chances into a significant lead, the Gunners kicked on and triumphed 3-1.
This bright 45-minute spell was to prove an exception rather than the norm for club and player as Paolo Di Canio and his team unravelled spectacularly. By mid October, the fiery Italian had gone, replaced by former Brighton Manager Gus Poyet. Having registered just one point from a possible 24, and already glaring straight at relegation Sunderland were in deep trouble. With points required rapidly, Poyet began to make changes. Autumn in Sunderland was no longer the right place or time for a teenage winger not yet fully primed for battle.
Mavrias’ next steps very much depend on how successful Gus Poyet is in steering his club away from the trap door. Despite very welcome victories over Newcastle and Manchester City, and a good run in the League Cup, the Uruguayan’s team remain entrenched in the bottom three of the Premier League.
After starting the year as the brightest prospect in Greek football and possessing a regular starting place at the Apostolos Nikolaidis, Mavrias is now more likely to be tackling fullbacks at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground for the reserves while hoping that he will at least make the squad for Sunderland’s next match.
The biggest issue he faces is winning over Poyet. Mavrias now looks to be something of a political pawn within the club as it remains difficult to tell who was originally responsible for his signing. He may have been identified by Paolo di Canio, and the prospect of being cast off as one of the former managers’ 'types' remains a possibility. However it’s more likely that Mavrias was one of a number of players identified and recruited by Roberto di Fanti, Sunderland’s Director of Football.
At time of writing, entirely justifiable questions are being asked about Di Fanti’s role and his acquisitions. With the team continuing to require points, and quickly, manager Poyet will want to mark his own authority on the team and further recruitment in January to cover some aching gaps in the squad is extremely likely. Whether those recruits are identified by Di Fanti, Poyet, or a combination of both remains to be seen.
If Sunderland intend to maintain a track along the Director of Football route, Di Fanti will remain king and players like Mavrias will be expected to play. If owner Ellis Short feels that the most important voice is that of his manager, citing the need for experience, there’s a good chance that Charalampos Mavrias could drift away from the first team picture at Sunderland permanently.
At the back of all this is an extremely bright player who, like so many others his age, moved that little bit too early. Mavrias has the ability to make his mark at Sunderland, but even the most optimistic follower of the young Greek would acknowledge he’s unlikely to play a great deal of football for his club in the coming months. The best current solution might be a loan move, but as long as Sunderland remain in danger of relegation, Poyet is unlikely to release anyone just in case they are needed at short notice.
Charalampos Mavrias is more than capable of doing something significant in a match and reminding people where he is and what he can do. Whether he will get the opportunity is another issue.
"Really excited when he arrived at Sunderland, but that was always tempered by the presence of Paolo Di Canio. Unlikely to be called upon, but you never know, he looked such a prospect in Greece." - Jeff Livingstone, IBWM
E Despite a big move, this year has been an increasingly accelerated descent with no suggestion things will change in 2014