Time for Manchester City striker Samaras to answer critics

The great hope of the Greece national team Georgios Samaras did not enjoy the best of times at Manchester City last season.

Helping City to an unwanted record of the least goals scored at home in a Premiership campaign was symptomatic of a larger problem - he has not produced the goods in his time at Eastlands. Questions are being asked, both in England and in his homeland, about the future of this powerful forward who at one time appeared to have the world at his feet.

Born on the island of Crete on the 21st February 1985, the young Samaras moved to Holland at only 16 years of age signing for SC Heerenveen before even playing a professional game in his native country. One cannot understate the difficulty of moving abroad at such an age, having to cope with a new language and culture without the family support structure so many young footballers rely on. Examples such as Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal are very much the exception rather than the rule, yet Samaras progressed quickly and established himself in the first team, finding the net with a regularity that belied his tender years.

When the now former City boss Stuart Pearce paid £6M to bring a young Samaras over from Heerenveen he surely thought he was buying a young talent who would grow to become a mainstay of the team, famously calling him "a baby with an abundance of ability" after a double salvo at home against Everton. For £6M though, quite a fee for Manchester City at the time, the fans expected a 20 goals a season striker to lead them up the table - and on that front Samaras undoubtedly failed to deliver.

Perhaps expectations have always been too high at the City of Manchester stadium for a player, who, although still young and possessing undoubted potential, has never managed to plunder so much as 15 goals a season, even in a league with such helpful defenders as the Dutch Eredivisie. In the 2004/05 season, Samaras managed just 11 goals in 31 starts for Heerenveen and in the half season before making the move to Manchester he racked up 6 goals in 15 appearances. His 2004/5 record doesn't look bad, especially when it's pointed out that his strike partner in that season, a certain Jan-Klaas Huntelaar, now of Ajax, netted a similar amount, 17 in the same number of starts. But while Huntelaar has gone on to become one of Europe's most sought after forwards, Samaras' career has stalled.

In contrast to his club career, Samaras has become a great hope for the Greek National Team - which still lack a truly potent finisher. His debut came on 28th February 2006 against Belarus and he found the net immediately, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 friendly win. With Greece well poised in their Euro 2008 qualification group, supporters are hoping Samaras can stay sharp with regular first team action and if that is not at Manchester City, they would relish the prospect of it being in the Greek Super League.

Clubs from his homeland would welcome any indication from Samaras that he's willing to move back to Greece, where, due to his switch to Holland at a young age, he has never played a competitive league game. Rumours circulating in Athens suggest the biggest club in the land, Olympiacos, are vying with his old team Heerenveen, Feyenoord and Betis to take him out of the Premiership.

Were Samaras to move back home to the current Greek champions he would enjoy regular Champions League football that would surely make up for any inadequacy the Greek Super League might bring. Yet whilst the trend in Greek football is for the very best to move abroad, the return of Samaras might herald a return of respectability for the league. It is unfortunate that Brazilian legend Rivaldo has departed Karaiskaki stadium this summer, for cross town rivals AEK Athens. The service the Brazilian could have provided for Samaras would have given him ample opportunity to fill his goalscoring boots and regain lost confidence. The harsh reality though, is such that in the present climate, Dutch, French and Spanish clubs will always be able to offer more Euros than any Greek team, Champions or not.

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's takeover at Man City, along with his decision to install ex-England boss Sven Goran-Eriksson as manager further complicates Samaras' position. Money now appears plentiful at Eastlands and the price on Samaras' head according to reports in the Greek press is rumoured at €5M. The young Creatan may yet get a reprieve and many in Greece believe he should stay and fight for his place. They say he can make it in the Premiership, they say he has the talent and game, if only he could rediscover his confidence. Throughout his career many people have had their say on Georgios Samaras, whether in England or another European league, now is the time for Samaras to answer back.

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