A friend of mine sent me a YouTube video of a football player’s highlights reel, with it he mentioned a young Australian talent who plays with Udinese Calcio’s Primavera squad. It inspired me to start weekly player profiles of young and upcoming talented youth; it seemed fitting to start with Armanakas.
Armenakas started his youth career playing for Sydney Olympic, after being scouted in a park by ex-Socceroo Jim Patikas. At the age of six, he was invited to spend three weeks training with FC Barcelona‘s elite juniors squad. While in Europe, he also spent time with Bolton Wanderers. In 2010, he moved to Europe, initially joining Brescia before signing with Watford’s Youth Academy. After spending two years with Watford, he signed a three-year deal with fellow Giampaolo Pozzo owned club, Udinese. By signing with the Italian club, Panos became the youngest Australian ever to sign a professional contract in any of the top five leagues in Europe. In November 2015, Armenakas signed a contract extension, keeping him at Udinese until 2018.
Armenakas initially represented Greece at under-17 level, playing in two friendly matches against Turkey U-17 in August 2014.
In late 2014, Armenakas accepted a call up to the Australian U-17 squad, to play in the 2014 Nike International Friendlies tournament in the United States, where he made his debut in a loss to Brazil U-17 in November 2014. In October 2015, he was selected in Australia’s 21-man squad for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. During this time, he was also selected by The Guardian as one of the best fifty young talents in world football.
“Italian football really pushes you to the limit tactically. What you do without the ball is a key component of your success. There is not a lot of space to work in and you need to be able to play in congested areas and be able to handle physical play.”
Armenakas added: “I feel that I have grown over the last two seasons both as a player and as a person. I am learning and being challenged on a daily basis.
“My skills have improved and tactically the Italian game is helping me grow. Being surrounded by great coaches and players is something I am not taking for granted.”
In the wake of the U17 World Cup, Armenakas returned to Udinese but found that his team couldn’t replicate their early season form. A horror tackle soon after brought the rising star’s campaign to a bitter end.
“It is tough to explain why we never really played to our capabilities this season,” Armenakas said.
“I then got injured through a very reckless tackle which pretty much finished off my season with six matches left in the Primavera Championship.
“When I watched it on replay, it was a pretty sickening tackle. But that’s football and it’s something that most footballers experience and learn to deal with. In the beginning it was hard as all I wanted to do was play and help my team.
“I have been rehabbing every day and, with the help of the Udinese’s medical and fitness staff, I am confident that I will be coming back stronger than ever.
“I started individual running and ball work a few weeks ago and I can’t tell you how happy I was to have a ball at my feet again, training with my team mates and feeling good physically.
“Up until that point I had been training regularly with the Udinese’s first team. This gave me confidence and confirmation that I am valued at Udinese and, as I said, my goal for next season is to make my debut.”
Author: James Woodman // Twitter: @jameswoodman90 // Facebook: @Football Broke My Heart