From Nino Sallusto to Ricardo Costa
They came to Thessaloniki from all over the world –from 48 countries to be exact- in order to put on the PAOK shirt. The first one, however, was in Greece for a different reason. Nino Sallusto, recorded as the first foreign footballer of the club, was an Italian student at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and joined PAOK in 1959, making the most of a regulation concerning students back then. He signed for one season, but failed to impress. Nobody knows is he rendered better in his studies…
It took 14 years for the next non-Greek players to cross the Toumba threshold, as the regulation permitting the participation of foreign footballers in the Greek league came into force in 1974-75. PAOK then acquired Swiss goalkeeper René Deck and Brazilian striker Guerino Neto.
In the following years, especially after the introduction of Greek football in the professional era in 1979, signing of foreign players became the rule rather than the exception. The Bosman ruling further boosted the European Union football market and non-Greek players started gaining ground and claiming several positions in PAOK’s roster.
Most of the 171 foreigners who have played for PAOK throughout the years, are Europeans –a total of 103. There are 31 South-Americans on the list, 32 stem from Africa, one from Central America and two from Oceania.
Serbia and Brazil are the countries most represented with 15 players, Poland is third in the list with 9 players at PAOK, while Egypt (8) and Argentina (6) complete the top five.
In the current season, PAOK have 13 foreign players on their roster: Djalma Campos, Zeljko Brkic, Jose Angel Crespo, Evgen Shakhov, Leo Matos, Gojko Cimirot, Marin Leovac, Fernando Lopes dos Santos Varela, Robert Mak, José Alberto Cañas Ruiz-Herrera, Aleksandar Prijovic, Dorian Leveque and Diego Biseswar.