Tenacious Top Talent
Great talents have to often cope with overwhelming expectations. Odysseas Vlachodimos was initially unable to fulfil these expectations – only to become a goalkeeper in the National and Champions League by taking a detour.
Odi, as he is usually called, played in all of the youth national teams of the German Football Association and played 47 games, eleven more than Manuel Neuer. When the German Under 17 national team caused a sensation in 2011 with a second place finish at the European Championship and the strong third place at the World Cup in Mexico, the Stuttgart-born player was in goal. The bronze Fritz Walter medal, the award for the best youth players of the year, added to his impressive year.
“One had to go into the goal”
It all began when brother Panagiotis, who is now also a professional footballer, wanted to shoot at the goal in the garden. “One had to go into the goal”, says Odi today and grins: “It was probably not such a bad distribution of tasks.”
It was only a matter of time before Odi, who is considered a relaxed and funny guy, would become the number one at VfB Stuttgart. That was always his dream since a young age – after all, he had been playing there since he was eight years old. But when he felt ready, they only planned him as number three in the goal: “Of course that annoyed me, but I didn’t rebel and still gave everything because I owe a lot to VfB. The club made me what I am today.”
Odi made his Bundesliga debut at the age of 21 in August 2015, but only two more matches followed for the Stuttgart team – all of them were lost. He lacked the trust and backing of the club. “I was always loyal and showed my performance on the pitch – and now this. That’s hard,” he said at the time when he was no longer in the squad.
Chased by the scouts
Strong reflexes on the line, good penalty area control, great playing skills: Odi can play and is a courageous, modern goalkeeper who’s infectious mood can be transfered to others, helping to carry them along. That’s what he wanted to show: “As a professional, you can’t and shouldn’t retreat into the sulking corner.” So he decided to move to Greece to join Panathinaikos Athens, the country where his family has their roots.
He arrived in January and, like in Stuttgart, was again number three. In the meantime he was even called up for military service, but the club made sure that he didn’t have to show himself in the barracks every day. It wasn’t until November that Odi was part of the starting eleven – and he didn’t give up this position. In 34 of 63 games he did not concede a goal, became Under 21 European Champion and aroused the interest of Benfica Lisbon.
There, he played in the Champions League and was named UEFA’s 2018 vertical starter, and with strong, sometimes spectacular parades, he helped his side to the Europa League quarter-finals after their elimination. Odi made his debut as national goalkeeper for Greece and became a Portugese Champion with Benfica – 2018/2019 was his most successful season so far.
This development has not remained hidden from other clubs either. There were recent talks in the press about 18 scouts at the CL game against Bayern Munich, about the interest of the Munich club and many other top clubs anyway. Because no matter what: Odi always believed in himself and in the end convinced others with his performance.