FA Cup star Kostas Tsimikas was always meant to be a Liverpool hero, many just didn't know
LIVERPOOL'S quadruple hopes are still very much alive thanks to an "unlikely hero" in Kostas Tsimikas.
Tsimikas scored the winning penalty on Saturday's FA Cup Final at Wembley after yet another goalless draw and sudden death shootout against Chelsea.
The left-back was the final hero who made it two out of four for the Reds – but there was nothing "unlikely" about him.
The 26-year-old defender burst onto the scene in 2018 at Olympiacos following two successful loan stints at Esbjerg and Willem, who played a crucial role in his development.
Loans rarely work for Greek youngsters as many mistake them for rejection and instead of making the most of it abroad they prefer to stay at home – but not Tsimikas who saw it as a great opportunity to hone his craft.
Then aged 22, Tsimikas quickly won over the Greek giants' manager Pedro Martins, who quickly established him as his starting left-back.
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The Piraeus outfit may not be part of football's elite but take themselves very seriously – only those with the right combination of talent and character can win over an extremely demanding crowd.
Greek clubs prefer quick fixes, which is why they often turn to players from overseas instead of investing time on youngsters, meaning Tsimikas had to overcome even more obstacles.
He played a critical role in Olympiacos' stunning 2019-2020 season, in which they won the domestic double and eliminated Arsenal from the Europa League before taking Wolves to the limit in the last 16.
It was obvious the Greece international was not just another flash in the pan like so many youngsters before him – he was hands down the club's best left-back since the legendary Grigoris Georgatos.
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It was only a matter of time until Europe's elite came knocking and Liverpool splashed £12million in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tsimikas' departure left a huge void at Olympiacos, who are still struggling at full-back without his trademark forays down the wing and his pinpoint crossing.
Switching the Superleague for the Premier League is always a huge leap for every Greek lad and his debut season got even tougher as he was stricken by injury and Covid-19.
Tsimikas' admittedly underwhelming first year at Anfield, which only allowed him seven appearances across all competitions, saw many hastily and mistakenly dub him a flop despite his limited pre-season.
There were also times when he was dropped for Norwich full-back Dimitris Giannoulis in Greece's national team.
Few allowed for his lack of pre-season, the injury setbacks he suffered or his adjustment to life in Liverpool.
On Merseyside he has continued to have a hardworking attitude and has formed a friendship with star man Mohamed Salah.
Fortunately manager Jurgen Klopp continued to believe in the quality he showed at Olympiacos and gave him a second chance that included an injury-free pre-season.
Tsimikas has managed to stand out this term, even though he is stilljust Andy Robertson's backup, with six assists in 25 appearances so far.
The Greek talent has earned a chant from the Reds' fans and the Greek Scouser nickname, which he proudly carries with him just like NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo does with his Greek Freak tag.
The former Panserraikos ace has proven to be a luxury backup that has lefte his mark on Liverpool's quadruple bid -just as he did at Wembley.
The Greek Scouser, and of course Alisson, stepped up when the former's good pal Salah hobbled off with an injury, Luis Diaz missed a raft of chances and Sadio Mane wasted a crucial penalty.
If there's one person who isn't surprised then that's probably one of his biggest fans, Klopp, who asked him to take a penalty.
The defender embraced the immense risk of sudden death that could have seen him become either a hero for the ages or the villain that ended the quadruple bid.
The Greek ace has an important decision to make about his future no matter how the season ends: stay at Liverpool and remain Robertson's understudy or become a starter – which he deserves – elsewhere.
But until then he remains so loyal to Liverpool he even raised their Greek Scouser nickname by proudly calling himself the "Scouse Greek".
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