Who is reported Arsenal transfer target Sokratis Papastathopoulos?

Arsenal are reportedly close to signing Sokratis Papastathopoulos for £16million
Image: Arsenal are reportedly close to signing Sokratis Papastathopoulos for £16m

Greece international Sokratis Papastathopoulos looks set to join Unai Emery's Arsenal this summer - but what do we know about the Borussia Dortmund defender?

Sven Mislintat, the head of recruitment at the Gunners, worked with the 30-year-old centre-back during his 10-year spell at Dortmund and Emery is happy to work closely with him and head of football operations Raul Sanllehi in all transfer dealings.

The club's majority shareholder Stan Kroenke said last week that Emery will have a budget of around £70m to spend, and Sokratis could be the first player to arrive this summer.

According to Sky sources, the Gunners have agreed a deal with Borussia Dortmund for the Greek defender, but what do we know about him? We take a look…

Factfile

Age: 30

Position: Centre-back

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Also See:

Nationality: Greek

International caps: 79

Sokratis celebrates Dortmund's DFB-Pokal triumph in 2017 during a parade
Image: Sokratis celebrates Dortmund's DFB-Pokal triumph in 2017 during a parade

Background

Born in Kalamata, Greece, Sokratis came through the youth ranks at Apollon Petalidiou before joining AEK Athens as a 17-year-old.

He scored on his debut in October 2005 during a Greek Cup match, but Sokratis was loaned out in the second half of the season to gain valuable first-team experience at Second Division side Niki Volou.

Sokratis was lauded for his display for AEK against AC Milan in the Champions League
Image: Sokratis was lauded for his display against AC Milan in the Champions League

The learning curve helped the defender produce notable displays the following campaign, praised for man-marking Filippo Inzaghi during AEK's famous 1-0 win over AC Milan in the Champions League.

During the 2007-08 campaign, he became the club's youngest captain at the age of 19, in AEK's fierce clash with local rivals Panathinaikos.

Flying the nest

Sokratis' excellent display against Milan alerted clubs in Italy of his qualities, and in August 2008 he joined Genoa for an undisclosed fee.

He became a fans' favourite and his rise then took him to Milan in July 2010 for €14m under new manager Massimiliano Allegri.

Player stats

Sokratis had a passing accuracy of 86.9 per cent during the 2017/18 season in the Bundesliga - only eight defenders who made a minimum of 1,000 passes had a higher percentage. 

Furthermore, he won 68 per cent of his individual duels - a figure that only three players in the entire league were able to top.

But he made just five Serie A appearances during their title-winning campaign before being loaned to Werder Bremen.

A successful year-long loan led to a permanent switch for €5m in April 2012, but the following season was a forgettable one for the player, as Bremen just about survived a relegation scare.

Arnautovic brawl

Tempers flared during one training session at the Bundesliga strugglers as Sokratis clashed with now West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic.

The pair went toe to toe after Arnautovic went down holding his head following a challenge.

The Greek defender salutes the Bremen fans after his penultimate game for the club
Image: The Greek defender salutes the Bremen fans after his final game for the club

The Austria international did not take kindly to his team-mate's attempt to help him up, claiming he had been elbowed and the red mist descended as Sokratis then grabbed him by the throat before they were separated.

Move to Dortmund

On the eve of their Champions League final against Bayern Munich in May 2013, Borussia Dortmund announced the signing of Sokratis on a five-year contract, with the player explaining: "Money did not play a role in my decision to join Dortmund. My own future was all that mattered and I am convinced that I made the right decision."

He looked set to be third-choice to Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels but he ended his maiden campaign in the Bundesliga best XI.

Sokratis was linked with a move to the Premier League following the departure of Jurgen Klopp, but he eventually extended his contract until 2019 under Thomas Tuchel.

The Dortmund centre-back thwarts Gareth Bale during a Champions League clash
Image: The Dortmund centre-back thwarts Gareth Bale during a Champions League clash

Tuchel's decision to promote Sokratis to first choice was viewed as a defining difference between himself and the Klopp years.

In January 2017, German magazine Kicker listed Sokratis as one of the best players in the Bundesliga and he has developed into a mainstay of the Dortmund defence.

International duty

Sokratis earned his first call-up to Greece's senior squad in February 2008 but he failed to make the final 23-man squad for the 2008 European Championships.

Further disappointment would follow as the defender was sent off during Greece's opening game at Euro 2012 against Poland.

Sokratis helped Greece reach the World Cup last 16 for the first time
Image: Sokratis helped Greece reach the World Cup last 16 for the first time

But he was an integral member of the Greece side at the 2014 World Cup, playing in every game and scoring in the last 16 defeat by Costa Rica.

With 79 caps to his name, Sokratis now serves as vice-captain to Vasilis Torosidis.

What's his style?

Representatives of Arsenal have entered talks with Dortmund and spoken with Greece national team head coach Michael Skibbe about the centre-back's talents.

Known for his ability to play on the ground and aggressive approach, the defender has shown excellent leadership qualities throughout his career, having captained Dortmund during the DFL-Supercup penalty shootout defeat by Bayern Munich in August 2017.

The former AEK Athens defender is known for his no-nonsense approach
Image: The former AEK Athens defender is known for his no-nonsense approach

He is now the club's vice captain, but with just one year remaining on his current contract, Arsenal are hoping to secure a cut-price deal.

How will he fit in at the Emirates?

Mislintat joined as head of recruitment in November, and he has already succeeded in bringing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the club - two players he worked with at Dortmund.

A more intriguing element to Sokratis' potential arrival is the presence of fellow Greek centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos already at Arsenal.

The 29-year-old has captained Dortmund on numerous occasions in his five seasons
Image: The 29-year-old has captained Dortmund on numerous occasions

At 30, Sokratis would be another ready-made signing with Laurent Koscielny a long-term absentee with a ruptured Achilles and Per Mertesacker now retired.

Emery is keen to find a new leader to initially cover for the Frenchman while also acting as a role model for the likes of Mavropanos, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding.

Shkodran Mustafi faces an uncertain future at the Emirates, with Juventus poised to swoop for the under-performing German, and Emery would likely build his four-man defence around his new recruit.

Did you know?

Aubameyang was renowned for turning up to training at Dortmund in a chromed Lamborghini, but Sokratis endeared himself to supporters shortly after signing for the Bundesliga club when he arrived for pre-season in a modest Fiat 500.

World Cup Super 6

World Cup Super 6

Could you be the next Super 6 winner? Enter your predictions for free here.

World Cup Super 6

World Cup Super 6

Could you be the next Super 6 winner? Enter your predictions for free here.

Around Sky