Arguably the best football defender ever to come out of Greece, Manolas is a product of AEK Athens FC's youth academy. He made his debut in a match against Kastoria FC (1-1) on 3 February 1978 and became a mainstay in the AEK defensive until his retirement. Stelios Manolas' last match was against Skoda Xanthi, a match that earned him his 700th cap. He was AEK Athens FC's captain for 19 years. Manolas had been targeted by Porto and Monaco but he stated: I will never leave the club I love and I want to retire at AEK Athens, Manolas is also the current Technical Director for AEK Athens. He has been regarded the greatest legend to ever play for AEK.
During his career, Manolas won 4 championships and 4 Greek Cups, having played 700 games in the Greek league and scoring 44 times. He was capped 71 times by the Greece national football team, scoring 6 goals, and was a member of the 1994 FIFA World Cup squad. After his retirement, Manolas coached the Greek under-21 team.