Manolas was born on July 13, 1961 and started his playing career in the AEK youth academy. He broke into the senior squad at age 18 and became a mainstay in the AEK defence until May 17, 1998, when he played his last game against SKODA Xanthi.
During his career, Manolas won 4 championships and 3 Greek Cups. He played 436 games in the Greek league. He was capped 71 times by the National Football Team of Greece, scoring 6 goals, and was a member of the 1994 World Cup squad.
After his playing days were over, Manolas coached the Greek under-21 team.
Stelios Manolas is the uncle of present-day footballer Kostas Manolas.