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Antonis Antoniadis: Greece's first European star

His nation's most lethal European scorer, Antonis Antoniadis's voyage to the 1971 European Cup final with Panathinaikos FC was almost as big a shock as Greece's EURO win.

Antonis Antoniadis in action in the 1970/71 European Cup final
Antonis Antoniadis in action in the 1970/71 European Cup final ©InTime

"We were pioneers, representing Greece's amateur football against professionals," remembered Panathinaikos FC goalscoring great Antonis Antoniadis of the Greens' journey to the 1970/71 European Champion Clubs' Cup final. "It took us almost ten years to realise what we had achieved. I wish I could say it could happen again, but it is becoming increasingly difficult."

The ten-goal leading marksman in the European Cup that season, Antoniadis was a goalscorer of immense ability – witness the Greek top-flight golden boots he picked up in 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975. His 39 league strikes in 1971/72 remain a national record, and were one shy of Gerd Müller's total of 40 for FC Bayern München that campaign – which earned Antoniadis an award as European Golden Shoe runner-up.

Antoniadis with his Golden Shoe runner-up prize
Antoniadis with his Golden Shoe runner-up prize©InTime

With 16 goals in 26 UEFA club games, Antoniadis is also, emphatically, the most efficient Greek forward in European competition, though he might never have had the chance to perform at that rarefied level. Signed from Aspida Xanthi FC in 1968 after two seasons as second-division top scorer, Antoniadis's unveiling at Panathinaikos turned into something of a farrago: the player was rushed to the hospital opposite the Greens' old Leoforos Stadium after suffering a bout of appendicitis.

He duly missed pre-season and made an underwhelming start. However, Antoniadis booked himself in for extra training the following summer while his team-mates enjoyed their holidays; a tough athletics programme helped build his pace, acceleration and stamina, while ballet classes made Antoniadis more supple. He returned to the pitch as a complete package. Immensely powerful in the air, he boasted a fierce shot with both feet and impressive positioning.

Known as 'The Tall' for his 1.87m frame, Antoniadis's partnership with 'The General', Mimis Domazos, proved a killer combination at Panathinaikos, helping the front man amass 187 goals in 241 league outings, and six more in 21 matches for his country. Under Ferenc Puskás's leadership, Antoniadis also became the scourge of European defences, Panathinaikos eliminating AS Jeunesse Esch, ŠK Slovan Bratislava, Everton FC and FK Crvena zvezda en route to the 1971 European Cup final.

Antoniadis shows his aerial ability against Crvena zvezda
Antoniadis shows his aerial ability against Crvena zvezda©InTime

"That campaign was like a movie," said Antoniadis, who later headed up the Greek Professional Players' Union. "I remember Ferenc Puskás boosting our confidence, making us believe we had nothing to fear from our rivals. The famous '11 of us, 11 of them' or 'they have two feet, so have you' lines really worked."

The most magical moment for Antoniadis was netting the first-leg away goal at Everton's Goodison Park that would take Panathinaikos through to the semi-finals after a 1-1 aggregate draw. One of the most famous strikes in Greek history, it is known as the 'five nines goal' since it was the No9's ninth European goal, scored nine minutes from time – at 9pm on the dot – on 9 March 1971. However, while his team became the only Greek side to contest a UEFA club final, they were no match for AFC Ajax in the decider, losing 2-0 at Wembley.

"I remember the other-worldly feeling of coming onto the pitch at Wembley for the final," said Antoniadis, now 68. "I don't regard it as a defeat any more, but as the inevitable beginning of Ajax's world reign. They were a spectacular side." His Panathinaikos may not have been so gifted, but their exploits deserve to be remembered as something every bit as impressive.

*Only players who have featured in 20 or more fixtures were counted in this calculation