How Arsenal tried to sign “the Greek Maradona”

You can’t blame Arsene Wenger for Arsenal’s failure to sign this superstar.

Vasilis Hatzipanagis was nicknamed “the Greek Maradona,” and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what sort of player he was: a dynamic, talented attacking midfielder with sublime balance and an eye for goal.

In 1984, when the New York Cosmos played against the World XI, Hatzipanagis lined up alongside Mario Kempes, Peter Shilton and Franz Beckenbauer.

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Born in the Tashkent in 1954, he began his professional career in 1972 for Pakhtakor, before leaving the Soviet Union for Greek outfit Iraklis.

But Hatzipanagis signed a binding contract at his new club, which would keep him at Iraklis for the next 15 years.

Teams like Porto, Lazio and, as mentioned, Arsenal, were keen to bring the talented midfielder in, but were unable to prise him away.

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Hatzipanagis played four times for the USSR in 1975, but switched allegiance to Greece. He made his debut in 1976, producing a majestic performance in Athens.

The midfield maestro was subsequently told that he couldn’t play for his adoptive nation, because he had already played for another country.

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The few chances Hatzipanagis was afforded to shine on the bigger stage, he took, but given his strict contract for Iraklis and his inability to represent Greece, the wider footballing world were deprived of his talent.

Instead of a career at Arsenal, Manchester United, Barcelona or Real Madrid, Hatzipanagis remained one of the game’s hidden gems.

mjmaxwell

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