In the decade or so that it’s been part of our lives, YouTube has changed the world in a multitude of ways.
Since it was bought by Google for $1.65 billion in 2006, the video sharing site has oiled the wheels of democracy, transformed the music industry, given people across the globe a platform upon which they can express themselves like never before and provided others with information, education and access, at the click of a mouse, to a vast archive of footage which would once have been incomprehensibly unimaginable.
Today, it is the world’s third most visited website (behind Google and Facebook) and its one billion users upload 300 hours of video to the site every minute. But what proportion of that 300 hours, one wonders, are crudely edited compilations designed to make bang average footballers look far more talented than they actually are?
You’ll no doubt be all too familiar with these borderline violations of the Trade Descriptions Act by now but one of the earliest beneficiaries of this particular phenomenon was Georgios Samaras.
In January 2006, rumours emerged regarding Manchester City’s interest in a young Greek striker who had been making a name for himself at Dutch side Heerenveen and it didn’t take long for YouTube footage of the then 20-year-old to circulate around online fans’ forums and the like. Perhaps we hadn’t yet realised how easy it was to make someone look like a world beater with a few carefully selected snippets on YouTube but boy oh boy, did this fella look good!
The original video which so captured our imaginations appears to have been taken down long ago but this one gives more than a flavour of what we were dealing with back then.
Samaras scored 25 goals in 88 appearances for Heerenveen and his YouTube compilation showcased a player who was strong, quick and tricky with an eye for goal. He was like a cross between Ruud van Nistelrooy and Zlatan Ibrahimović and possessed not one but two of football’s most sought after assets – great feet for a big man (GFFABM).
Given everything we know now, it’s difficult not to ask oneself whether the extent of Stuart Pearce’s scouting of Samaras might have taken place on YouTube because before long, the hirsute Hellenic was strutting his stuff before our very eyes at the City of Manchester Stadium.
“It has been a tough month for me but I was pleased that City were interested in me and now I’m really happy to be here,” he told the club’s official website at the time.
“I know everything about them. I watch a lot of football and of course I watch the Premier League all the time.
“I know all about the manager, and I also know about people like Andy Cole, David James and Trevor Sinclair. I’m really happy that I am going to be part of the team with them.”
The £6 million spent on bringing Samaras to Manchester wasn’t a club record fee at the time and is virtually a free transfer in today’s money but it was still considered a lot of coin to cash-strapped City in those days and the pressure was on the YouTube sensation to hit the ground running.
And to be fair to Samaras, that’s exactly what he did. He made his debut as a 65th minute substitute in a 3-0 home win over Newcastle United and scored a header on his first start two matches later, against Charlton Athletic. He then scored a brace in a home win over Sunderland and his fourth goal in six appearances helped City to an FA Cup fifth round replay victory against Aston Villa.
His fifth and final goal of the season came in a 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane and though City ended up finishing 15th, it hadn’t been a bad return at all for a young foreign player during his first few months in English football and great things were expected of the man Stuart Pearce had famously described as an “uncut diamond”.
Samaras’ first goal of the 2006/07 season came as City were embarrassingly knocked out of the League Cup by League One side Chesterfield but four days later, he scored two stunning goals as the Blues notched up only their second win of the season against West Ham United.
But sadly, that was about as good as Samaras’ City career was ever going to get. Though City weren’t relegated that season, it has gone down as one of the most dismal in recent memory and Samaras, along with other foreign recruits like Bernardo Corradi, Ousmane Dabo and Hatem Trabelsi, bore the brunt of the criticism for the team’s poor performances.
In December 2006, Samaras was hauled off at half time in a 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.
“Georgios was disappointing and he will have to learn from it,” said Pearce at the time.
“He’s only 21 but he will have to learn quickly about the rigours of the English game. Every minute he spends on a Premiership football pitch is invaluable for him at his age.”
A further insight into Samaras’ and Pearce’s relationship – and the latter’s holistic man-management skills – came later in the season when, during a match away at Newcastle, a TV microphone caught Pearce very audibly shouting “Samaras! Get back you lazy c*nt!” from the sidelines.
Nevertheless, Samaras ended up with six goals in 2006/07, taking his total to 11 since he joined the club, which was more than any other City player had scored during that period. Two of those goals came in a 2-1 victory over Everton on New Year’s Day 2007 and, you probably don’t need reminding, would prove to be the last City scored at home that season.
Stuart Pearce was rightly sacked the following summer and new owner Thaksin Shinawatra installed Sven-Göran Eriksson as his successor. This was bad news for Samaras and he immediately fell behind new signings Rolando Bianchi and Valeri Bojinov in the pecking order having failed to impress his new boss during pre-season.
The Greek’s final goal in a City shirt came in a League Cup victory over Norwich City and after being linked with the likes of Middlesbrough, Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers, his two year spell in Manchester eventually came to an end when he moved to Celtic on an initial loan deal in January 2008.
Samaras won four Scottish league titles and three cups during his time in Glasgow before returning to the Premier League to play for West Bromwich Albion in 2014. However, he only appeared five times for the Baggies before joining Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal on loan and, now 31, he’s currently plying his trade for Rayo Oklahoma City in the North American Soccer League (NASL).
It may have never worked out for “Gorgeous” Georgios Samaras but on YouTube, he’ll always be a king (and at least he didn’t end up like Mohamed Zidan).
Written by Dan Burke
Typical City is funded by the readers via our Patreon page. Please consider funding us with $1 a month so we can continue to operate as we are now. Thank you in advance.