Kostas Tsimikas tells Sky Sports about answering Jurgen Klopp's call to come to Liverpool and overcoming an injury-hit start to life at Anfield; watch West Ham vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm
Sunday 31 January 2021 17:33, UK
Kostas Tsimikas was watching on from the sidelines during Liverpool's 3-1 win over Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday night. It is a role the left-back has had to get used to since his £11.75m arrival from Olympiakos in the summer.
His first five months in England have been beset by misfortune. A positive coronavirus test sent him into self-isolation ahead of the opening weekend of the season and since then he has been ruled out by untimely injuries to his thigh and knee. As if competing for a place with Andrew Robertson was not difficult enough.
Tsimikas has been limited to only four appearances as a result, one in the 7-2 win over Lincoln in the Carabao Cup back in September and the others against Atalanta and Midtjylland in the Champions League. His performances were encouraging in those games but it has not been the start he or Liverpool envisaged.
"Every beginning is difficult but for me this one was very, very difficult and frustrating because I had never had injuries before in my previous team," he tells Sky Sports.
"I was unlucky, this happens in football, but okay, I am always looking forward. I am a positive guy and I keep going. I fell down two times but I'm here again, 100 per cent fit and ready to help my team."
That attitude was part of the attraction for Liverpool as they sought to add depth in the left-back position at the end of last season - "I really like his mentality," said Jurgen Klopp when the deal was confirmed - but it was his ability and potential to improve that convinced the club to hand him a five-year contract.
The 24-year-old, a dynamic offensive specialist described as more of a "defensive winger" than a full-back by Greece national coach John van 't Schip, had been watched extensively by Liverpool's recruitment team and Klopp liked what he saw too.
"They scouted me for about one year and watched all the games I played with Olympiakos," he says. "I couldn't believe it when I heard about the interest until I spoke to the manager and he said, 'We want you here'.
"We spoke about the team and about my abilities. He said he liked my abilities and what I'd done in the games I'd played for Olympiakos. When you hear this manager speak about you positively, you just want to come here and give your best for the team. I was very excited and very happy."
Tsimikas had a taste of facing English opposition with Olympiakos last season, playing against Tottenham in the Champions League and earning plaudits for his displays against Arsenal and Wolves in the Europa League.
But having been an unused substitute in Liverpool's last three games, he is now eager to finally test himself in the Premier League.
"When I'm on the bench I celebrate as if I was playing but of course every player wants to play," he says.
"The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world. I haven't had the chance to play yet because I was injured but there are very good players here and that's why I was interested in coming.
"I am waiting for my chance. I just want to be as fit as I can be every day and give everything in training when I am on the pitch - and hopefully not get injured again."
Tsimikas utters the last line with a chuckle but there were some testing periods during his time out and he is grateful to his family, who have moved to Liverpool with him, and his two dogs, Maui and Fuerte, who feature prominently on his Instagram page and who, in his words, he "loves like children", for helping him through it.
"We are all here, my family and my dogs, and we are very happy, we like it a lot," he says. "The lockdown situation means we haven't had time to visit the city much but I hope when everything is open again we will be able to do that and enjoy it also."
Tsimikas has received plenty of support from Liverpool too - "everyone here has been very friendly and very good with me," he says - and it also helps that the move to England was not his first abroad. As a young player at Olympiakos, there were loans spells with Esbjerg in Denmark and Willem II in Holland.
They helped him develop as a player as well as a person.
"The Danish league was very physical, which helped me a lot," he says. "After that, Holland helped in terms of the offensive game. Everything I have done on the road I have followed until now has helped to me to come here and be competitive and ready for this challenge."
Tsimikas has had to adapt to another new style of football as well as a new country at Liverpool and he admits Klopp's approach, which places considerable emphasis on the two full-backs, has taken time to get used to.
"In the beginning it was a little bit difficult to understand the way they play but now, after a lot of months, I know exactly what the coach wants and the plan he has," he says.
Klopp's personal touch has helped.
"We speak a lot about the positions to be in and how he wants me to play and contribute," adds Tsimikas. "He is the best coach in the world and every day in training I am always learning.
"Whatever he says to me, I have to listen and learn from it."
He has tried to learn from his counterpart Robertson too.
"He is a very good player and very good person as well," says Tsimikas. "Of course he helps me because he has played a lot of years in the Premier League and in England. When I see him in the games and even in training, he is very passionate, like me.
"I think my abilities are that I'm fast, I have a good cross and I'm very good defensively, but I am also very passionate about what I do on the pitch and I want to help the team achieve as much as I can."
Tsimikas is already a popular figure around the club despite his limited involvement in the first half of the season and has struck up a particularly close friendship with Mohamed Salah.
"He's very friendly and a very good guy," he says. "We spend a lot of time here in the training ground. We drink coffees and speak together. He's a really good mate for me. We are always together and he has helped me a lot to adapt to the team."
All that is left for Tsimikas now is to seize his opportunities when he gets them. Robertson has played more minutes than any other Liverpool player in the Premier League this season and as the fixtures pile up, the need for rotation will increase. "I will be ready," says Tsimikas, "and I will give everything."
Watch West Ham vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm