Zagorakis was a centre midfielder who could also play on the right side of midfield. He started his career with Kavala, the club that also produced Zisis Vryzas, with whom he became close friends. He was an important part of helping the team get into the Greek Second Division. He had six goals and 114 appearances for Kavala before being transferred in 1993 to PAOK.
In the 1992–93 season, Zagorakis left Kavala as a winter transfer to join PAOK, part of a string of star transfers made that season. He played for PAOK until December 1997, and also captained the squad in his last two seasons. He rose to become an iconic figure for the fans,as he rarely missed a league derby and often scored with important goals, particularly in 1994-95 when he struck four, his best-ever tally.
Zagorakis left for English club Leicester City the following winter and signed for Martin O'Neill's in 1998. While in England, he took part in two consecutive League Cup finals at Wembley Stadium, losing the first against Tottenham Hotspur in 1999 and defeating Tranmere Rovers in the second. Zagorakis will always be fondly known by Leicester fans for his sheer determination in midfield. He will always be fondly remembered for his goalkeeping cameo against Crystal Palace (in a 3–3 first leg draw).
Zagorakis was disappointed with Leicester manager Martin O'Neill's reluctance to use him regularly and decided to return to Greece in 2000. He moved to AEK Athens, and played alongside fellow countrymen such as Michalis Kapsis, Vassilis Lakis, Demis Nikolaidis and Vassilios Tsiartas. With AEK, Zagorakis won the Greek Cup in 2002 against rivals Olympiacos. Zagorakis, during his last season in AEK, has accepted a reduced pay-off which is reported to be £220,000."He showed he genuinely has the club's best interests at heart and is free to take up any of the great offers from teams abroad," said a club statement.
On 14 July 2004, he left AEK Athens for Bologna, signing a two-year contract worth €1.5 million per year. The 32-year-old midfielder – who was voted player of the tournament in Portugal – was released by debt-ridden AEK Athens and joined Bologna on a Bosman free transfer. "Zagorakis is our Greek Baggio," Bologna owner Giuseppe Gazzoni Frascara told the newspaper. In 2004–05, Zagorakis was a regular feature in the squad, but the team found itself relegated to Serie B after a play-out series against Parma. In the following summer, he was released from the team as they couldn't afford his payroll under the new conditions.
The Player of the Tournament at UEFA Euro 2004 will arrive in Thessaloniki to sign the deal with PAOK. The midfielder was released by Bologna following the Italian team's relegation from Serie A, and rejoins one of his old clubs. Zagorakis eventually signed a two-year contract with PAOK for €700,000 a year. When Zagorakis landed at Makedonia Airport in Thessaloniki, 7,000 supporters were there to welcome him back. His return however coincided with a turbulent period, with the club many financial and administrative problems.
Zagorakis received his first cap for Greece on 7 September 1994, against the Faroe Islands. He scored his first goal against Denmark in 2006 World Cup qualifying, in Athens, while earning his 101st cap. Numbering 120 caps, Zagorakis was Greece's all-time leader in international games played until 12 October 2012, when Giorgos Karagounis made his 121st appearance for the national team. He earned his 100th against Kazakhstan on 17 November 2004, and was the team's longest-serving captain.
Zagorakis played an important role in Greece's win in the 2004 European Championships, and was named the Player of the Tournament by UEFA and cosenquently he was in the Team of the Tournament. FIFA named Zagorakis as a contender for the 2004 FIFA World Player of the Year award (he finished in 17th place alongside Spain's and Real Madrid's legend, Raúl), as well as UEFA named him for the 2004 European Footballer of the Year award (he finished in fifth place), behind the likes of Ronaldinho (title winner) and Thierry Henry (fourth place). He holds the record of most consecutive matches (57) (except one in 2006 because of injury) of the national team (due to either injury or not selection) since his first cap in a period of 12 years.
After 14 full playing years as the captain for Greece, Zagorakis announced his retirement from international football on 5 October 2006. More specifically, Greece captain was considering retiring after his team's European championship qualifier against Norway in Athens on 2 October 2006, has also been called up for the match against Bosnia four days later, officials said. On 22 August 2007, however, he played for the last time with the national side, in a special friendly match against Spain in Toumba Stadium, Salonica. He played for about 15 minutes and was then replaced by Giannis Goumas, receiving an applause by fans singing his name.
On 28 May 2007, after the fifth Greek Superleague All-Star Game, Zagorakis announced his retirement from professional football. After many widespread rumours, it was announced that he was to become PAOK's new president, on 18 June.
The club had been in dire financial straits for several years. Zagorakis undertook to sort out finances by attracting investors, increasing revenue and mobilising the club's fan base. In his unifying first statement he said: "The strength of PAOK lies in its supporters, its fans...I would have not made this decision" (to retire from playing and assume administration) "if i did not love my club. The situation for PAOK is very difficult and I will not try to hide its problems; instead I will do all I can to solve the pressing financial issues."
Soon he set about restructuring the club's debt and team, and recruited former team-mate Zisis Vryzas as technical director. As of late 2008, PAOK has been able to pay off most of its accumulated debt, seen a steady increase in ticket sales and advertising revenue, and team performance on the field has improved considerably, under the coaching of Portuguese manager Fernando Santos.
On 15 December 2008, Zagorakis announced a major issue of new stock by the club, valued at €22.3 million. He appealed to small investors and stated that, although it is unlikely that the entire sum could be covered in a worldwide crisis environment, he felt confident that the expected influx of capital would enable PAOK finally to put its past problems behind and focus on future growth.
On 8 October 2009 Zagorakis surprised fans and press alike by announcing his decision to quit the presidency. In a short announcement on the club's official website, he cited that personal problems have led him to this decision. He was rapidly replaced by his close friend Zisis Vryzas.
Nevertheless, he kept close contact with his former associates, and also frequently attended the club's home games alongside Vryzas. Zagorakis finally changed his mind and on 20 January he reprised his position as president, with Vryzas stepping down to assume the post of vice-president.
On January 2012 Zagarakis resigned as president of PAOK after fans protested against the sale of its best player to balance the indebted team's books. PAOK fans broke up seats in the stand and invaded the pitch after an unexpected 2-1 home defeat by Atromitos. "I step down at a difficult time so that love and unity return to the club," said Zagorakis. PAOK sold Portuguese midfielder Vieirinha to German club Vfl Wolfsburg earlier this month, but selling off assets to service debts is an unpopular concept in Greece. PAOK is under pressure to reduce its debt or have its licence revoked, under new "financial fair play" rules by European soccer's governing body UEFA. Earlier this month UEFA fined PAOK and threatened them with a ban from European competition for breaching licensing regulations. UEFA fined PAOK, who have acquired €250.000 by promoting to the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League, of which €200,000 is suspended for a probationary period of three years.
Zagorakis was described by UEFA.com as a "combative, industrious defensive midfielder with a powerful right-foot shot".He wore number 7 for both the national team and clubs.
He was featured on the cover of the Greek edition of FIFA 2001.
Zagorakis is looking to kick-off a new career in politics by becoming a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). He was a New Democracy candidate for the European Parliament in the elections of 25 May 2014. He was elected as an MEP and became a member of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats). He was unveiled as one of the party's hopefuls by its leader and Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras.Leicester City
League Cup: 1999–2000
Greek Cup: 2001–02
European Championship: 2004
UEFA Euro 2004: Team of the Tournament
UEFA Euro 2004: Player of the tournament
UEFA Euro 2004 Final: Man of the Match