Angelos Charisteas earned his place in Greek football history by scoring the winning goal in the final of UEFA EURO 2004 against Portugal, securing his country’s first major international trophy in the process.
The 30-year-old beanpole striker began his professional career in 1997 and has played for some of Europe’s leading clubs. He first came to prominence after leaving amateur club Strimonikos Serron for Aris Saloniki, scoring his fair share of goals as they won promotion back to the Greek top flight.
A brace in a local derby against PAOK Thessaloniki did his reputation no harm, though he had to endure a loan spell at Athinaikos before cementing his place in the Aris side, making his European debut as a 19-year-old in the UEFA Cup tie with Celta Vigo.
His consistent performances with Aris resulted in a move to Werder Bremen in 2002. Scoring regularly in both the Bundesliga and the UEFA Cup despite not always being a first-choice striker, he won league and cup winners’ medals with Werder in 2003/04, the prelude to his heroic deeds for Greece in Portugal.
Anxious for more first-team football, he then left Werder for Ajax, where his brief was to fill the void left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had moved to Italy. Though he contributed to the Amsterdam club’s Dutch Cup and Super Cup successes in 2005/06, he picked up an injury on UEFA Champions League duty against Arsenal and was forced to sit out his country’s decisive Germany 2006 qualifying match against Denmark, which the Greeks lost 1-0.
Henk Ten Cate’s appointment as Ajax coach resulted in Charisteas’s demotion to fifth-choice striker, which led to him seeking moves to Germany and England before finally pitching up at Dutch rivals Feyenoord, where he struggled to bed down.
In 2007 current employers Nuremberg came in for him, though he did spend the 2008/09 season on loan with Bayer Leverkusen.
He has played 82 times for his country since making his international debut in 2001, scoring 23 goals in that time, more than any of his contemporaries in the Greece side. As well as scoring the goal that won the EURO 2004 trophy, he was also named in the team of the tournament alongside team-mates Antonios Nikopolidis, Traianos Dellas, Giourkas Seitaridis and Theo Zagorakis.
Charisteas’s next objective is to become the first Greek player to score in the FIFA World Cup™ finals, one he hopes to achieve at South Africa 2010.