Australia’s future international stocks have received a boost with teen sensation Panos Armenakas rejecting a recent call-up by Greece and choosing Australia as his country of allegiance.
The World Game can reveal that 16-year old Panos, under contract to Serie A club Udinese, is poised to be named in the Australia's U-17 squad for the Nike International Tournament to be played in the United States in late November.
Though Tony Vidmar is yet to name his squad, TWG understands the Joeys coach has spoken to the player to check on his fitness and availability.
"Of course, if I was called up to be a member of the Joeys squad for the Nike Friendlies, I would for sure accept the invitation," Armenakas said.
"It would be a great honour to be selected to represent Australia at such a prestigious tournament.
"It would be even more satisfying to be called up, knowing Australia has continued to monitor my progress and development, even though I was ineligible to participate in the recent AFC Championships.
"For now though, I am 100 per cent focused on working hard every day at Udinese, staying focused, and trying to become the best player I can be."
England, Brazil and host nation USA are the other teams taking part in the four-team Nike International Tournament.
The Joeys recently qualified for next year's FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile by making the semi finals of the AFC U-16 Championship in Thailand.
Armenakas, who was born in the US but was raised in Australia, rejected a first call up by Australia for an Asian tournament in Hong Kong last year because he wasn’t fully fit. Due to AFC regulations his absence from that event meant he was ineligible for the World Cup qualifiers. However, under FIFA rules he remains eligible to represent Australia in the World Cup finals.
His decision to reject Greece comes as relief to Australia's coaching staff, who became concerned when Armenakas accepted a call-up by Greece for a friendly late last year. He carries a Greek passport through the heritage of his father as well as a US passport courtesy of his country of birth. The Americans were also keen to select him but Armenakas refused that also.
Armenakas joined Udinese from Watford at the start of the current European season, signing a three-year professional contract as a member of the club's Primavera (youth) squad.
In doing so he rejected overtures from the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. He is the youngest ever Australian to be signed by a Serie A club on a professional contract. He joined Udinese before he turned 16 in August.
Since arriving in Udine he has impressed coaching staff with his match-winning exploits and scoring prowess in his trequartista role. Among his fans is Udinese head coach Andrea Stramaccioni, who has invited him to train with the first team for the past four weeks.
Armenakas, whose gifts with the football became evident when he was barely out of nappies, was nurtured carefully by his father John, who was mistrustful of the Australian development system that existed at the time, fearful that the boy's technical gifts, including his penchant for the dribble, would be beaten out of him.
He spent many of his young years at the AC Milan Academy in Sydney under the coaching of Andrea Icardi and represented the Rossoneri a number of times in international youth tournaments.