AN AUSTRALIAN starlet on the verge of cracking the Serie A has warned that the Greek FA is circling as he waits for his first call from the FFA.
Chris Ikonomidis, 17, might not be familiar to all just yet but he is poised to become a household name back home as he rises through the ranks of Atalanta in Italy's top flight.
The Sutherland junior is one year into a three-year professional deal he landed at Atalanta after impressing in trials at Arsenal and Inter Milan earlier in his teens.
Ikonomidis, who is being groomed as a trequartista, is eager to feature in his beloved green and gold as soon as the chance arises.
“(I've had) no (contact) at all,” Ikonomidis told OSaussies.com. “I would love a call up.
"An Italian agent with connections in Greece has heard that the Hellenic Football Association is interested in me and that I may get a call up to their Under 18s.
"This would be great because the Europeans play against each other quite often.
"In my age group at Atalanta there are four Italian, one Swedish, one Polish and one Hungarian internationals. This is good for their careers. They often play against each other and I think that’s fantastic.
"My heart though is with Australia but… they have to call me.”
After scoring goals for fun at Sutherland Sharks in Sydney, Ikonomidis was invited to trial with Arsenal as a 14-year-old.
He remembers training with Jack Wilshere and scoring a winner against Norwich for the Under 16s as well as getting Robin van Persie's shirt after a one-on-one session.
But when a deal failed to materialise on a second, injury-hampered visit to the Emirates, the goal-scoring midfielder followed up a chance to trial at three Italian clubs.
Inter showed interest without committing and Sampdoria made an offer but Ikonomidis said Atalanta were quick to make their move after he scored against Chelsea in a youth tournament that ironically also featured the Gunners.
“Atalanta was impressed and the club’s Sporting Director, Gabrielle Zamagna, warned the club 'not to let this kid leave',” Ikonomidis recalled. “My mother and I were treated very well at the club, and I loved the set up.
“I was placed in the centre of a high intensity training match. I later realised that it was the first team which explained why they looked old! I performed well keeping up with the game and 'roughing up' my marker… who turned out to be the club captain Cristiano Doni.
“Doni was not impressed and after the third time around he launched a barrage of Italian abuse which at the time I didn’t understand.
"The first team coach, youth coach and Sporting Director found this amusing.”
Doni has since retired after being banned from football for match-fixing, but Ikonomidis' rise has continued.
As one of the club's best technically and physically for his age group, as well as the fastest, the playmaker has spent time with the club's senior reserve squad ahead of schedule, an experience he has relished.
“I was also amazed at the coaching – completely different to what I had in Australia,” he said.
“At one stage I was under the instruction of (Giuseppe) 'Beppe' Bergomi, who taught me some valuable lessons on relaxation, peripheral vision and field placement.
"It was only later that I learnt that he played in four World Cups and was a winner in 1982! He also played 519 games for Inter.”
Ikonomidis, who credits his Sutherland youth coach Ivan Blazevic as a crucial early influence and who looks up to Tim Cahill as his Socceroos role model, has been moved up to the reserves for the upcoming season, and his short term aim is to push for a first team berth before his deal runs out in two years.
Long term, he hopes to emulate John Aloisi by traversing Europe's 'big three' leagues before eventually settling home in the A-League.
He added: “Internationally I would love to play for Australia and I believe that today’s youth will band together in the future and have a national team that will challenge the world's best.”