Sotiris Ninis- Hot property in Greece!
(born April 3, 1990 in Himarë, Albania) is a Greek footballer currently playing for Panathinaikos. He is touted as one of the best young talents in the country and symbolizes the future of Greek football.
Ninis began his career in 2004 as a youngster in Panathinaikos' football academies, joining from feeder club Apollon Smyrnis. During these 2 years, he became an integral part of the Panathinaikos Youth Squad and his coaches believe him to be the next promising talent of Greek football.
As a result, on December 22, 2006, the club directors offered him a 5 year contract and just 2 weeks after that day, on January 7, 2007, Panathinaikos coach Víctor Muñoz selected him in the main squad for the match against Egaleo at the Olympic Stadium. His outstanding performance earned him the title of the Superleague Matchday MVP and he immediately became the hottest name in every Greek football quarter.
He became the second youngest player ever to wear the club's shirt in a league match, at the age of sixteen (the first was Kostas Antoniou -15 years old- in 1978). In February 2007, he officially rejected a call to play for the Albanian Under-21 national team. On February 18, Ninis lead Panathinaikos in a 1–4 win over rivals AEK Athens in the Olympic Stadium. Ninis scored one goal and assisted two others. On July 6, Ninis signed a professional contract with Panathinaikos.
The 2007/2008 season was marred by injuries and non-selection. After coming on as a substitute against Olympiacos in the first game of the season, Ninis was hit by several injuries, a hamstring injury followed by stomach muscle injuries ruled him out of action for three months. It is thought that these injuries arose due to burnout from playing too many games at a young age.
He eventually returned in December, but was not been part of the Panathinaikos first team for the remainder of the 2007-2008 season. This decision by Panathinaikos coach Jose Peseiro was heavily criticised by all Panathinaikos fans.
The 2008/2009 season began well for Ninis. New manager Henk ten Cate showed faith in Ninis by featuring him regularly in Panathinaikos' pre-season training. He repaid this faith through his performances against teams such as R. Charleroi S.C. Having entered the pitch at half-time, Ninis assisted three goals and scored one, aiding Panathiniakos to a 5-1 victory against the Belgian club. On 11 August 2008, it was revealed that ten Cate had selected Ninis to be one of the new captains of Panathinaikos, along with fellow players Dimitris Salpigidis and Gilberto Silva.
On September 23, 2008, Ninis extended his contract with "The Greens" for an extra 4 years meaning he will be at the club until 2012, there is also a €10m buy-out clause into the agreement for any foreign team wanting to buy him, rising to €17m if a Greek side covets his signature.
Ninis played with Greece national under-19 football team in the UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship in Austria, where he scored the equaliser against Germany, assisted two others and helped his team to progress to the final. Ninis was eventually selected by UEFA in the "U19 names to note", containing the best eleven players of the 2007 UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship. He was selected as the right midfielder in a 4-4-2 formation.
Ninis returned to duty for the Under-19 Elite qualifying round of the European Championships, after making his senior international debut. He was a key player in games against Moldova and the Netherlands, particularly impressing in the latter game. He assisted one goal, and scored the match winner from 12 yards as he kept Greece's hopes of qualification alive. His Man of the Match performance attracted scouts from Europe's Elite clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Real Madrid and A.C. Milan, who were assigned to watch him against Russia on 29 May 2008.
Ninis was officially called up by Greece coach Otto Rehhagel on May 16, 2008 for the game against Cyprus on May 19. This was Ninis' first ever senior call-up and offers him a chance to stake a claim for the Euro 2008 squad. Ninis, who impressed as Greece reached the final of last year's UEFA European Under-19 Championship, expressed his delight at the news, saying: "It's a dream come true and an extra motivation to work even harder and improve myself. I'm very happy."
On his debut Ninis scored the opening goal of the games versus Cyprus in the fifth minute, after a solid pass by Panathinaikos striker Dimitris Salpigidis, Ninis slotted the ball underneath Antonis Georgallides and into the back of the net making the perfect debut and start for his country and becoming the youngest ever scorer for Greece with 18 years and 46 days, breaking Kostas Eleftherakis' old record by 244 days. Ninis also won the Man of the Match award for his performance.