bundesliga

Konstantinos Mavropanos: the "gladiator" centre-back adding to VfB Stuttgart's attacking arsenal

Football is littered with tales of "the one that got away", world-beating players that somehow slipped out of a club's grasp. And that certainly rings true of Konstantinos Mavropanos, with Arsenal's loss very much VfB Stuttgart's gain.

The 23-year-old is currently in his second season on loan at the Mercedes-Benz Arena from the Gunners, and is showing exactly why the club fought so hard to have him for another year. This time they even secured an option to capture his signature on a permanent deal at the end of 2021/22.

The most recent evidence of the Greek's top-level credentials arrived in the 1-1 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 8, when he thundered in the opening goal from 35 yards with a vicious low drive.

Watch: Mavropanos' stunner against Gladbach

A lucky one-off? More like the continuation of a trend. That goal was Mavropanos' third in the Bundesliga this season - he also found the target in the DFB Cup first round - making him the league's highest-scoring defender alongside teammate and fellow centre-back Marc-Oliver Kempf.

And without wishing to belittle Kempf's efforts, which have all been headers from corners, Mavropanos' goals have all come from open play. Scruffy tap-ins from rebounds? Nope. Lucky deflections? Not a chance. Each of them was special.

The first came against Freiburg on Matchday 3, when he dribbled forward, played a one-two on the edge of the box and produced a deft right-footed finish over the goalkeeper. His next arrived against Hoffenheim on Matchday 7, when he strode forward from midfield after winning possession and lashed in a low, left-footed drive from the edge of the area. Then came his jaw-dropping thunderbolt against Gladbach.

"He always shows in training that he can produce magic," head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo said of the seven-time Greece international earlier this year. "He's got heart, energy and determination. We need guys like him."

Watch: Mavropanos discusses his Gladbach wonderstrike

That is no mere lip service. Only Borna Sosa and Wataru Endo have played more minutes than Mavropanos for Stuttgart in 2021/22, and he has been in the starting line-up in every competitive outing so far.

The reason for that is because - in addition to being an extra weapon in the team's attacking arsenal when arriving from deep - the VfB No.5 is also an excellent defender. "He's our gladiator - a monster in terms of physique," said Matarazzo. And the centre-back puts it to good use.

He is among the league's 12 fastest players, with a top speed of 21.79 mph (35.08 kmh). And, as of Matchday 8, Mavropanos had won a higher percentage of tackles (71 per cent) than any other player in the Bundesliga this season.

"Dinos is a prototype of everything this team stands for: always working, with a desire to win and to constantly improve," said Stuttgart sporting director Sven Mislintat.

Mavropanos, who had a spell on loan with Nuremberg in 2020, is going from strength to strength at Stuttgart. - Wolfgang Frank/Eibner-Pressefoto via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Eibner

"And when things aren't going well, he doesn't get negative. He always communicates well with his colleagues, and is always looking forward."

The immediate future brings a fixture against Union Berlin for Mavropanos and Co. on Matchday 9, the next step on what looks certain to be an upward career trajectory.