Kop Star: Dean Bouzanis

Kop Star
Issue 5
Dean Bouzanis
By Matte Lever

Born October 2nd 1990, reserve team ‘˜keeper Dean Bouzanis is currently playing the rope in a cross continent game of tug-o-war (which explains his height, for a 18 year old!). Pulling for Oceania (or confusingly as their F.F.A. would have you believe, Asia) is the country of Dean’s birth; Australia, who are so desperate to attain his services between the sticks that they recently sent full national team coach Pim Verbeek all the way round the world to a Liverpool Reserve team match for a spot of persuasion.

And this is merely the tip of an ever escalating iceberg, the Aussie media are going ‘˜berko’ that they may loose their hottest prospect in years, whilst still seething from a similar incident in 2004, which saw Joey Didulica decide to don the Croatian shirt instead of the Socceroos’ famous green and gold.

Their version of the magazine FourFourTwo recently ran the headline ‘œStop Bouza’s Greek Tragedy’, in which former Socceroos’ ‘˜keeper, goalkeeping academy owner, and Sydney F.C. goalkeeping coach Jim Fraser claims ‘œ’¦the kid will be our [Australia’s] best ever keeper in years to come. He is outstanding.’ Quite a big claim considering Australia’s recent history of No. 1’s, but Fraser goes on to justify his statement:

‘œI had him at Sydney FC before he went to Liverpool last year and he was like a sponge. I’d stand behind the goal and give him instructions but after a month that wasn’t needed. He had some rough edges and I think he was shocked at how fast the game was when he got to the club, but he has that X-factor as a ‘˜keeper. He totally believes in himself.’

Conversely, pulling in the opposite direction for Europe is Greece. Who Dean is at present ‘œhappily’ (according to Bouzanis himself) representing at Under 19’s level.

According to Bouzanis’ agent, Terry Palapanis, ‘œThe Greek FA keep flying over to Liverpool to watch his games and are in constant contact with Liverpool officials and me’, and the Greek’s contact with Liverpool could prove decisive, as it’s widely known that Rafael Benítez would prefer him to play for Greece rather than Australia due to the travel factor.

Until one of the two decides to call the young keeper up for some first team action, it seems Bouzanis will carry gaining as much experience with both of the set-ups as possible.

And in doing so, keeping both in limbo, ‘œAt this stage, yes, he will continue with the Greek U-19’s but he’s not going to make up his mind on who he plays for until a later date’, however when subsequently asked ‘œwho does Bouzanis want to play for: Greece or Australia?’ Palapanis gave a much more telling response:

‘œI’d say Australia, given the opportunity. But if he’s not given the opportunity, or if people here regard others better than him, he’ll probably play for Greece”

Position: Goalkeeper
Former clubs: NSWIS
Birth Place: Sydney, Australia
Date of Birth: 2/10/1990
Height: 6ft 3

When you read some of the quotes from people within the game about Dean Bouzanis, it is no wonder the two national teams are doing battle for him. The Australian media have already dubbed him ‘˜the next Mark Bosnich’, which, to those who only saw the latter stages of Mark’s carrier, may not seem like a complement, but on his day Bosnich was as good as anyone (before Sophie Anderton and the cocaine…)

Slightly stranger (yes, even stranger than being compared to an ex-Manc / coke head) words of praise came from Terry Palapanis when he said, ‘œDean is a freak of a prospect’ before cementing my respect for him by observing, ‘œThere were twenty-two clubs from Europe chasing him’¦ but we chose Liverpool. It was too hard to refuse.’

Bouzanis himself came out and told the Australian media ‘œBenitez told me when I signed my contract that he regards me as the best under-20 ‘˜keeper in the world’. When you take into account that the lad was only sixteen at the time he signed, that is high praise indeed.

As you would expect from a lad with his level of talent, he is clearly not lacking in confidence, in the same interview he said ‘œI’ve signed a professional contract and I believe that within two or three years I’ll make the Liverpool firsts squad’.

Dean BouzanisLudicrous, many will think. Although, this is a ‘˜keeper that has been punching above his weight his entire life; receiving his first call up to the Australian Under-17 side in 2005, at the tender age of fifteen, appearing three times for the Greek Under-19’s, and most impressively, an appearance for the Australian U-23 side, all this and he’s only just turned eighteen this month.

Bouzanis’ rise to fame began at local club Carss Park, where he was teammates with another young Australian / Greek with vast potential, Nikolas Tsattalios. The two became good friends at the club and eventually followed each other to the well-renowned New South Wales Institute of Sport.

NSWIS, located at Sydney Olympic Park, was established to ensure a high level of performance sports programs in Australia. The Institute can now boast 700 of Oceania’s greatest young sportsmen / athletes on twenty-eight sport programs. Whilst attending NSWIS, Dean had access to Australia’s finest in coaching and sports technology. I thought I would give it a special mention, as it is a fantastic establishment, and is beginning to churn out professionals at a similar rate to Claire-fontaine.

Upon graduation from NSWIS in 2007, Bouzanis was a hot property, and spent three weeks on trial with Liverpool F.C. first team squad, Rafael Benítez was sufficiently impressed to offer him a three-year deal. After signing which, he was immediately reunited with Nikolas Tsattalios, whist loaned out to Australian A-League outfit Sydney F.C. where was registered as part of the clubs Champions League squad.

On the 4th of December 2007, Dean made an impressive debut for the Liverpool Reserve team, keeping a clean sheet in the 3-0 demolition of Everton and has never looked back.

Throughout his time at these high-quality sporting teams and institutions, Dean has become a very astute goalkeeper for his age. Showing well-rounded ability, despite the occasional blunder – which is expected from young goalkeepers.

Primarily however, Dean is a shot stopper, like our Pepe Reina. Meaning he has cat like reflexes, positions himself well, whilst also being very brave and agile.

Previous Kop Stars:
Issue 1: Lauri Dalla Valle
Issue 2: Krisztian Nemeth
Issue 3: Dani Pacheco
Issue 4: Gerardo Bruna

His natural confidence also gives him great command of his area, by this I mean he comes and collects the ball to take pressure off defenders, and is vocal enough to let everyone around him know their jobs. Which I, as a centre-back myself, believe to be the most important aspect of a goalkeeper. He also has great distribution, both kicking and throwing, for a young ‘˜keeper.

The main downfall in Dean’s game is his dealing with crosses. Again funnily enough, similar to our own Pepe Reina, he has some troubles handling the ball under pressure. Nevertheless, he is a very young man for a ‘˜keeper, and wont reach his peak for another twelve years (give or take), so that gives him plenty of time to iron out any downfalls in his game.

Despite his obvious goalkeeping abilities, it is his physical qualities for a lad of just seventeen that make Bouzanis such a special goalkeeper, a giant standing at 6ft 3’ (191cm for you Europeans), clearly naturally strong and fit, he could (in my opinion) handle the physicality of the Premiership now, if only in body (not mind).

Bouzanis would be a regular in most reserve teams, however here at Liverpool he has to share the limelight with another ‘˜keeper tipped for great things Péter Gulácsi, who is probably one or two steps ahead of Bouzanis in terms of development at this minute, which is currently forcing him back to Under-18 level in search of football.

Due to the goalkeeping rotation, even Liverpool Way fanzine editor Dave Usher, a regular at reserve and academy games, could not muster too much firm information on him:

“I haven’t seen too much of Dean Bouzanis simply because the competition for goalkeeping places at the club is so fierce that he hasn’t had that many games. He played a fair bit for the under 18’s last year, and I saw him a couple of times but he had very little to do in those games. I also saw him play a few friendly games for the reserves at the Academy, and he made some good saves but also a couple of errors. From the limited bits I’ve seen, I’d say his handling looks excellent but he needs to improve on crosses.

“He wasn’t at the Academy very long before he was promoted to Melwood, which given how difficult that is proving for most of the lads at the Academy suggests that he is very highly rated by Rafa and his coaching staff. Although he’s training with Gary Ablett’s reserve squad, it’s hard to see him playing too many reserve games, even though regular keeper Dave Martin has gone out on loan. Ablett still has Peter Gulacsi, Martin Hansen and occasionally Diego Cavalieri to choose from as well as Dean, so it’s hard to see Dean playing that regularly unless there is an injury or two. Gulacsi started the season as first choice but there will be times when he is away on international duty, so Dean may get opportunities then.”

Despite this lack of playing time Rafa Benitez has clearly seen something he likes in young Dean Bouzanis, as word is, that he is about to be offered a new five-year contract to boost his already (apparently) bursting wallet.

What do you think; can Dean Bouzanis one day fill Pepe Reina’s massive gloves between the Anfield sticks and become a future KopStar? Let us know here.