The talented winger made the move to Italy at the tender age of 15 when he signed a youth contract with Atalanta before going on to play for Italian giants Lazio.
However, the dream move to Italy proved far tougher than first thought for Ikonomidis none more so when he was sent out on loan to Italy’s second division.
“When I was just 20 years old, I went out on-loan to Serie B team Salernitana and I’m not sure if you know, but the Serie B is even more intense than the Serie A in terms of pressure from the fans and the kind of mentality they have there,” he said.
“I remember on my first week of training, I turned up as this boy on-loan from Lazio and one of the older guys in the team came to me in the shower and he said, “if you dare try and take that left-wing position, I’m going to kill you”.
“I was shitting myself, I said “Oh my God what am I meant to do here.” I went home for a few days, I was a little bit rattled – I didn’t know what to do, but it turns out I ended up playing and playing well there and starting all the games.
“That guy, after about four or five weeks, was actually happy for me so it was an introduction into the competitiveness at the European level.”
The incident at Salernitana was not the only challenge faced by Ikonomidis after he
“This first two years in particular, I struggled a little bit,” Ikonomidis said
“Not so much on the pitch, I struggled off the pitch. I didn’t have any friends, I got bullied a little bit and didn’t really fit in anywhere because I didn’t speak Italian and I didn’t know any professional football set-up.
“I went from training twice a week to training everyday and being in a full professional set-up and then being called to train with the first team.
“After I found my feet in a couple of years, I had a good six months and I got a transfer to Lazio who came and saw me play and things really took off for me there. “
Although difficult experiences at the time, Ikonomidis said his struggles while playing abroad have helped him remain focused on making the most of his football career.
“I look back now and I think, man, I was a tough kid to go through that because it’s really shaped who I am now,” he said.
“Now if I get down or anything, it’s not that bad compared to the hard times I went through overseas.
“I would say just relax and try and block out the noise from other players and other people – just focus on what you need to do as best as you can.”