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Antonios Nikopolidis ( ; born 14 January 1971 in Artamarker) is a Greekmarker football player who currently plays as a goalkeeper for Olympiacos and the Greek national football team. He's regarded as one of the best Greek goalkeepers of all time having been awarded the most caps in the national team and playing an integral part in the UEFA Euro 2004 triumph.

The first years and the move to Panathinaikos

Nikopolidis made his first steps at his local team of Anagennisi Artas, from which he was transferred to Panathinaikos in the summer of 1989, where he was a back-up for Józef Wandzik. He made his debut during the 1990-91 season in a match against his current club, Olympiacos. In 1995 he played five games as Panathinaikos won the championship and three as they retained it the following year. However, it wasn't until the 1997-98 season that he established himself as a regular goalkeeper at the relatively old age of 26. In the 2002 Champions league, he helped the club reach the quarter-finals but, in the 2003-04 season, he lost his place to Konstantinos Chalkias when his contract negotiations broke down.

Panathinaikos offered him €400,000 per year which, although a pay-rise, he thought was not in line with his contributions to the team over the past 15 years nor with his current market value. As he did not immediately accept the offer the management became suspicious and decided to relegate him to the bench for the rest of the 2003-04 season. The Greek sports media and Panathinaikos fans at first took his side in the conflict and criticised president Vardinogiannis.

Just before UEFA Euro 2004, rumours were circulating that Nikopolidis had been approached by arch-rivals Olympiacos. It was discovered later that he had signed an agreement just before the tournament begun earning him €600,000 per year for three years. After that, the fans' disappointment in him was displayed during the celebrations following the team's 2003-04 season double when Nikopolidis, while raising the trophy, was booed by the majority of the crowd.

From Panathinaikos to Olympiacos

Soon after being instrumental in UEFA Euro 2004 helping Greece to lift the trophy, Nikopolidis joined Olympiacos making an immediate impact for his once rival team. Keeping a clean sheet in the first derby against his former club in the process, he went on to win two Doubles in a row, making him the only Greek player to win three consecutive doubles with two different clubs. At his new team, Nikopolidis also earned a reputation for making game-winning saves in the most important games. Displaying his penalty-saving abilities, Nikopolidis saved three penalty kicks against Roma, Real Madrid, and Rosenborg BKmarker, making him undefeated from the penalty spot in UEFA Champions League football in the Olympiacos shirt. In the 2007-08 season, he also equaled the Greek league record for the most penalty kicks saved in one season, which included saves against PAOK and former club Panathinaikos.

Greek national team

He made his debut for the Greece national football team on 18 August 1999 against El Salvador.

He played in the qualifying rounds of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2004 where he excelled as Greece qualified for the finals. Nikopolidis was one of the cornerstones of the Greek win in Portugalmarker, where he kept six clean sheets and did not let in a goal in the three knockout games as he claimed a winners' medal. He also earned a place in the All-Star Squad, and was voted goalkeeper of the Euro 2004 All Star team.

Greece missed out on the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals. He became team captain after the retirement of Theodoros Zagorakis but lost his armband to Angelos Basinas after his short relegation to the bench following a rare catastrophic performance in the 1-4 defeat to Turkey in March 2007. In a UEFA Euro 2008 group match against Russia, Nikopolidis made a crucial error, failing to maintain his position in front of the goal. This mishap resulted in a first-half Russian goal, which led to a 1-0 defeat for the Greeks and their elimination from Euro 2008; the team finished dead last out of every team in the tournament. He has featured in a World XI game in 2002, a rare honour for a Greek player. Nikopolidis is first among all goalkeepers in the history of the national team with the most caps (90 after his retirement).

On 15 June 2008, Nikopolidis announced his retirement from international football after Euro 2008, claiming that he had made this decision before the tournament started, and also stating that it is about time for a major change in the Greek national squad.

Career statistics

Statistics correct as of 2 December 2008









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1987-88 Anagennisi Arta Gamma Ethniki 16 0
1988-89 33 0
1989-90 Panathinaikos Super League 5 0
1990-91 0 0
1991-92 0 0
1992-93 0 0
1993-94 0 0
1994-95 5 0
1995-96 3 0
1996-97 7 0
1997-98 25 0
1998-99 19 0
1999-00 28 0
2000-01 25 0
2001-02 26 0
2002-03 28 0
2003-04 18 0
2004-05 Olympiacos Super League 29 0
2005-06 29 0
2006-07 28 0
2007-08 29 0
2008-09 29 0
2009-10 1 0

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