x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Samaras becomes a cult hero

Female fans call him "Gorgeous George", while the club's male supporters have lovingly dubbed him "George the Greek".

Georgios Samaras is proving that prosperity can be gleaned by sneaking out of the English Premier League.
Georgios Samaras is proving that prosperity can be gleaned by sneaking out of the English Premier League.

Female fans call him "Gorgeous George", while the club's male supporters have lovingly dubbed him "George the Greek". In a reworking of the Ray Charles classic, it seems everybody at Celtic has Georgios on their mind. A transfer to the moneyed Manchester City is presently comparable to following a yellow brick road of gold right into the heart of Eastlands, yet the elevated Georgios Samaras is proving that prosperity can be gleaned by sneaking out of the English Premier League.

The Greece striker (left) is 6ft 4in, but has been walking taller since he left City to sign a three-year contract with the Scottish Premier League champions in July. He got an inkling that Celtic may be the club for him after he moved there on loan in January. He picked up a medal for winning the SPL on the final day of the season, and cemented his spot in the Greece national squad for the Euro 2008 finals. His two goals helped Celtic swat aside Livingston 4-0 to reach the League Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday. He has scored nine times in six starts this season and according to their manager Gordon Strachan, is approaching a level of play that is "unplayable".

"Ooh! Ah! Samaras! Say ooh ah Samaras." The Celtic support's chant is not yet as popular as the time-honoured "Henrik Larsson is the king of kings" but it is growing. Traditionally, Celtic have an eye for a bargain. In trying to keep pace with the television revenue of some of Europe's more bloated leagues, clubs such as Celtic have to display some cunning. The move for Samaras appears to be downright devious.

Celtic purchased the regal Sweden striker Larsson from Feyenoord for £650,000 (Dh4.4m) in 1997. He went on to score 242 goals in 315 matches before Barcelona bought him. Samaras was signed for a paltry £1.5m only two years after City unloaded £6m to lure him from the Dutch side Heerenveen. Samaras, 23, has already moved ahead of the Holland striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink this season, and is blossoming in leading from the front. His languid style and flowing hair makes him a stand-out with both sexes, but his play alone is worth salivating over.

@Email:dkane@thenational.ae