21 Midfielder PAOK Australia
At the turn of the year Sydney FC’s Terry Antonis was one of the most exciting prospects in Australia’s A-League. Born in Sydney with Greek heritage, Antonis developed a fearsome reputation as a child thanks in part to a world class knack for juggling a football. A move to Everton at 14 fell through because of FIFA regulations and Antonis completed his youth football around Sydney before joining Sydney FC and signing professional terms in 2010.
Antonis has played Under-17 and Under-20 international football for Australia and was part of the team that came second at the AFC U-19 Championship in 2010. With that success, pressure follows. Antonis is seen by some observers as the natural successor to Harry Kewell. Whether he can match the former Socceroos star on the pitch as well as the treatment room remains to be seen.
2015 has been…
Destroyed by injuries. After an A-League season in which Sydney coach Graham Arnold demonstrated a reluctance to unleash Antonis to his fullest extent, the young midfielder signed a three-year contract with PAOK. In a year that’s brought with it a big move, a place in Australia’s successful Asian Cup squad (he didn’t play a single minute) and praise from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, the knock-backs have been cruel.
Antonis returned from the Asian Cup to find greater competition for places in Sydney, where the more defensively-minded Mickael Taveres added to Arnold’s options in the middle of the park. He joined PAOK and has been suffering from a hamstring problem ever since, returning to training in September; he’s yet to play competitively for his new side after starting only 13 games in the previous A-League season.
For a player with some noteworthy injuries already pock-marking his career history – an eight-month absence a couple of years ago stands out but isn’t alone – the latest setback must be a concern. Antonis missed the Under-20 World Cup and Australia’s Olympics qualifiers in the spring. Three senior caps in three years represent a paltry level of involvement for a player of obvious ability.
Antonis is a cultured central midfielder who likes to drop very deep and get into space for a pass, breaking up play in the same areas when required. Despite an occasional tendency to dwell on the ball he conducts the play from that deep spot, passing into feet and looking for a return. His biggest attribute is his range of passing (matched by extraordinary vision), but he can glide across the pitch in possession too, and he can shoot. He’s already scored some spectacular goals.
Antonis is comfortable and accomplished on the ball and always seems to be in plenty of space, allowing him to play the conductor for his team. But his injury problems rendered academic the reassurances of Frank Arnesen that he wasn’t going to be sent straight out on loan. When he returns to full fitness, Antonis will have to find a niche amongst Garry Rodriguez, Dimitris Pelkas, Robert Mak and Erik Sabo.
That being the case, PAOK coach Igor Tudor might very well be asking himself the same questions that Arnold pondered back home: can Antonis deliver the full midfield role as well as more senior players when it comes to the crunch?
D Fitness first
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