Georgio Samaras: Greek Jesus Comes to the Premier League

By Grant Burkhardt
Georgio Samaras
Getty Images

Georgio Samaras is a funny study. The Greek scored in the World Cup, but didn’t make much of a dent in the final montage, because no one expected or perhaps wanted his home country to still be playing. He was a striker for a mostly safe Celtic side whose primary achievement came in Champions League 2012 against Barcelona. Samaras didn’t star in that win, or really even factor into the result. He was the striker on those teams, and he will be for West Bromwich Albien when he starts there, where he was transferred Friday.

Samaras scored just 53 league goals for the perennial Scottish Premiership champions in almost seven seasons with the club, which obviously isn’t great even if you see that he scored 25 total in the past two years. He won’t be a Michu-esque infusion of scoring power for the struggling Premier League side, which is quite sad, because Georgio Samaras is one of the ones who’s easy to root for and also easy to forget.

Strikers are scorers, stars; that’s what they’re on the field to be. That’s what they need to be to make a team better. The best strikers in the world score. Leonel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovich…they all score, and they score in bulk. Watching Luis Suarez for the first few seasons of my budding Premier League fanhood was akin to watching a striker at his peak importance in the prime of his career. Suarez bailed out Liverpool so many times in the past few years, it became less an if and more a when.

Georgio Samaras is not that striker, which is absolutely fine. He’s lovable nonetheless in the same way most 29-year-old strikers are. Fans expect them to score, but at the same time they don’t really expect them to either. Strikers not named Messi or Suarez always have built-in excuses if they don’t register on the final scoresheet. “They didn’t get enough touches or their teammates were playing the flanks and not delivering good enough crosses. Samaras will get the same benefit of the doubt that Peter Crouch always did.

Crouch – the lovable, 33-year-old giant – had his best league season with Southampton in 2004-05, notching 12 goals in the Premier League in 27 games. Always dynamic with his head, Crouch was a staple on the edge of the six-yard area, but he was skills-limited, so if he didn’t score frequently no one ever pointed to him as the sole reason for Stoke City‘s, or Liverpool’s, failings. He just wasn’t good enough to warrant those expectations or that heavy blame.

But Crouch, that beautiful man, was enjoyable in every other way. I always just marveled at how improbable his soccer existence was: In a game sometimes dominated by smalls, the 6-foot-7 forward stuck out like a broom handle in a haystack. He would do something every once in a while that proved he had serious skill – see his golazo against Manchester City in 2012 that was among the goals of that year – but he was largely absent, waiting for a perfect pass, or for some space, or for the referee to signal a corner kick.

Samaras is similar to Crouch, who by the way still plays for Stoke City even though I’m seemingly eulogizing him. The Greek forward has a great body for headers – tall, broad, with decent leaping ability – and when he’s at his best he finds the right end of a swinging cross and buries it. But for large portions of his new team’s matches, just like his old team’s, he’ll be invisible, out there on the edges, having one of the best hair-beard combos this side of Andrea Pirlo, waiting for a long ball to give him a chance to create.

I’ve loved Samaras’ game since he scored a fairly meaningless goal in a 4-2 defeat to Germany at Euro 2012. He just…exists. He’s harmless in the way that all middling strikers are. They sometimes panic when they actually do find themselves in a juicy scoring position. They’re equal parts top corner wonder-strike and Row ZZ.

West Brom is in a tough spot, having been almost universally picked to be relegated when the season ends in 2015. The Baggies have picked up two points from winnable contests in the first two weeks of the season against Sunderland and Southampton. I’m not convinced Samaras will help lead them to the middle of the table, but he gives them a little something extra – even if it’s just a Jesus beard – for the final 36 games of what could be quite a long season at The Hawthorns.

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