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The Forgotten Colossus: Traianos Dellas

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Move over Manolas, Dellas will always be the OG Greek God in Rome

Soccer - Italian Cup - Quarter-Final - First Leg - Roma v Fiorentina - Olympic Stadium Photo by Tony Marshall - PA Images via Getty Images

Ah, Greece. I love that country. And the Greek people. Their gastronomy, hospitality and that warm ambiance in every home. They’re pretty straight-forward, with a typical Southern temperament, noisy yet very friendly people. You’re always welcome in their house. In fact, Greece might just be my second favorite country abroad, next to Italy. Plus, they made one of the best Assassin’s Creed games happen: AC Odyssey. What an experience!

Such lovely islands and beaches too: Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos, Santorini, Zakynthos in particular; that’s a gem right there. If you ever want to explore some of finest Mediterranean beaches, sunny weather and eat good food on the cheap, ponder no more and book your flight (well, at least once this whole corona crisis has settled down anyway).

Now, if we mix that Greek flair with some Roman history, well, it seems Greek players weren’t always a bull’s eye in the Eternal City. Quite the opposite. Holebas, Choutos and Tachtsidis are forgettable players. Torosidis was ok I guess, he did spent four seasons in Rome but wasn't a starter very long. He was always a makeshift fullback during those years.

Thank God Manolas arrived in Rome in 2014. A tall and tough centre-back who would play more than 150+ games for the club. And he scored THAT goal against Barcelona in 2018. He left for Napoli last year which stings, but hey, he sure was the one and only Greek Colossus, no?

Wrong. 12 years prior to Kostas, a certain Traianos Dellas (26 at the time) was brought in as a free agent from Perugia. Even taller and arguably tougher than Manolas, Dellas would stay three seasons in the capital, although he faced a lot more competition than Kostas between 2002 and 2005: Panucci, Chivu, Samuel, Aldair, Ferrari and Mexes.

Only after Capello left in 2004, was Dellas used more frequently in the starting lineup. In a disastrous 2004-2005 season with four different coaches, a mere 45 points and an 8th place in Serie A, Dellas even was one of the popular guys alongside Totti and Montella, not being targeted by the fans after bad results.

The reason why Dellas suddenly had this (mini) breakout season? His piece de resistance, his masterwork, his magnum opus: the UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal. Traianos was the wall in Otto Rehhagel’s Greece. Greece only conceded four goals during the entire tournament and Dellas even scored in the semi-final vs Czech Republic. He was also named in the EURO 2004 Team of the Tournament alongside guys like Cech, Zambrotta, Nedved, Ronaldo and Rooney. Not too shabby. Rehhagel called him a ‘colossus’ after the tournament.

However, after a decent 2004-2005 in Serie A, his contract wasn’t renewed and he went back to Greece to play for his original love, AEK Athens. He won a second Greek Cup in 2011, 11 years after his first one in 2000. Later on, in 2013, he became coach of that same AEK and guided them to two consecutive promotions from third tier back to the top division in 2015. He resigned in October 2015 but with a win rate of approx. 75% (source: Wikipedia so it must be true). His other two managerial jobs in Greece weren’t a success.

Why Dellas didn’t stay in Rome after a stellar EURO 2004 and a decent Serie A campaign, I don’t know. To be honest, it’s too long ago and I can’t remember the whole situation. Which is not unusual, I even forgot what I ate for breakfast this morning.

But I reckon if Dellas stayed on board for 2-3 more seasons, he would be higher on people’s list than nowadays. Perhaps Roma would even go on and win a Scudetto instead of three consecutive second places in Serie A between 2005 and 2008. After all, with his height, he was a weapon on corners or last minute long balls into the opponent’s box.

I know most people will always rate Manolas higher than Dellas, and it’s true, Kostas is more talented and way faster, he featured in a lot more games for AS Roma and his value was much higher. But in the end Kostas will never repeat the same trick as Dellas in 2004 with his national side.

In the summer of 2004, Roma suddenly had a EURO Championship winner on their hands, 28-years-old and at his peak on top of that. A centre-back tough as nails who was named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament. And one year later he simply left for free. Imagine. That’s like having a centre-back like Pepe, Carvalho, Boateng, Cannavaro, Puyol, Ramos (other CB’s hailed as the best in a EURO tournament) under the age of 30 but still losing him for free.

AS Roma, they never cease to amaze me.

Ok, so I might have blown things out of proportion. Still, through this post I just hope people will think more highly of Dellas after today, although he never reached the same level as Kostas.

Whatever happens, Traianos will always be my original Colossus. One that deserved a lot more time in Rome’s Colosseo.