Re-signing a 36-year-old midfielder just days after releasing him would usually be a step backwards for a Premier League club the size of Fulham, but when looked at more closely it is actually an ingenious decision from manager Martin Jol.
Giorgos Karagounis’ arrival on a free transfer last season saw Fulham fans questioning whether Jol had the managerial nous needed in England’s top flight. ‘An ageing Greek international,’ a ‘has-been with a reputation for theatrics’ – they couldn’t be further from the truth, however.
Karagounis is the quintessential professional footballer. At 36-years-old the former Panathinaikos star could have gone out quietly by finishing his career in the stale Greek Super League. Instead, he still had the hunger and determination to leave his homeland and play at the highest level for a considerably low salary (around £10,000-a-week).
Why is Karagounis’ return such good news for Fulham?
The Pyrgos-born central midfielder has European pedigree having played in the Champions League for Inter Milan, Benfica and the aforementioned Greek giants Panathinaikos.
His work ethic didn’t go unnoticed by teammates, manager or fans alike with Martin Jol hailing him as a ‘warrior’, while he also provided excellent cover for Fulham’s alternate midfield options in Steve Sidwell and Mahamadou Diarra.
Admittedly, the combination of age and the high-pressure environment of English football saw Karagounis finding himself being substituted earlier than expected after a handful of fatigued performances.
But despite tiring towards the latter part of the campaign, Karagounis’ endeavours can be backed up by statistics after he won 56 free kicks from 20 starts last season and finished with the club’s best pass completion rate (90.3 per cent).
His influence on Fulham’s youngsters shouldn’t be understated either. Who wouldn’t benefit learning their trade from a player who has won a European Championship medal for his country?
Indeed, it remains to be seen whether Fulham’s new owner Shahid Khan will provide Jol with a transfer kitty big enough to bring in players who will help complement the experienced Karagounis.
What you can be sure of is that Karagounis will do his upmost to justify Jol’s decision in resigning him by guiding the Whites to an even higher Premier League finish than last season’s 12 place.