With the kick-off to the new football season drawing nearer and thousands of fans putting on their favourite team’s shirt, clubs are adding the final touches to their squads.
The local championship is expected to be one of the most competitive this decade with many teams looking to spend more than last year to attract better quality players in the transfer market.
Starting the season with big hopes and a bigger budget than last year is Omonia Nicosia. The club has invested serious money in rebuilding the team after they had found themselves in financial dire straits due to bad management over the last decade.
The team accumulated an overwhelming debt of €16.8 mln, according to the club’s previous president Antonis Tzionis. The once title-winning club with the biggest fan base nearly two decades ago, handed over its fate to New York-based Cypriot investor Stavros Papastavrou in May, as previous boards elected by the fans were in no position to handle the debt.
Papastavrou has since set up a company to run all matters concerning the club’s football division raising the team’s budget and confidence, to players in the squad and candidates approached to join it.
The company has managed to bring aboard some good players with experiences from some of the world’s toughest championships such as the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and France’s Ligue 1.
Goalkeeper Tomas Mejias left Middlesbrough to sign for the Greens, while left-back Isma Gonzalez played for a series of Spanish teams such as Athletic Bilbao. They were joined by Marco Motta, an Italian International who spent most of his career in Italy, playing for teams such as Juventus, AS Roma and Genoa.
While the club has reportedly invested some €8 mln, Andreas Demetriou, the Green’s spokesman told the Financial Mirror that the company is also investing heavily in infrastructure.
Omonia is also investing in its youth academy and doing deals with institutions such as medical centers and universities. The club is trying to get back into the big time after a six-year try spell, as 2012 was the last time they won silverware – taking home the FA Cup.
Omonia – who last won the league title in 2010 – have been surpassed by cross-town rival APOEL in the total amount of trophies in the display cabinet.
Papastavrou’s company, Omonia FC Ltd, has announced plans to upgrade their training grounds in Yeri, while injecting an extra €155,000 in grassroots football, raising the budget to €275,000.
Demetriou said that the team will need some time to reach the top.
“It is not possible to build a title-winning team over night,” said Demetriou stressing that the ultimate goal is that in the coming years Omonia will in position to win the league and have a continuous presence in the group stages of the money-spinning Champions League or the Europa League.
Anorthosis Famagusta has also invested serious money in bringing big European names to Cyprus football. Among others, Anorthosis has resigned Columbian star Ricardo Laborde, who made a name for himself, playing for Anorthosis between 2010 and 2013, before moving to Russian Premier League title chasers FC Krasnodar.
Laborde has reportedly signed a three-year contract with the Famagusta team earning €350,000 per annum. The Blues did not stop there, as they managed to keep Slovak international (39 caps) striker Michal Duris on their team.
Duris saw his value sky-rocket after an excellent season with Anorthosis with rivals APOEL trying to snatch him away and other bigger European clubs waiting around the corner. His value has remained at around €1 mln. Anorthosis reportedly put their hands deep into their pockets to be able to keep Duris.
The Famagusta team did not stop there, wanting to strengthen their side even further they signed Gojko Kacar, a Serbian International with 25 caps. Despite details concerning the agreement with the Serb defender not disclosed, it is believed that his salary is similar to that of Laborde’s.
Kacar has built his reputation playing for major teams in Germany’s Bundesliga, such as Hertha Berlin, Hamburg and Augsburg, with his transfer value reaching a peak in 2009 of €10 mln.
Limassol’s Apollon has spent about half a million less this year, dropping to just below €5 mln. However, that did not stop them from signing Gambian international Mustapha Carayol, who has played for English sides Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town. Apollon have also invested in young talent such as Dylan Ouedraogo, a 20-year old Burkina Faso international defender who is a product of AS Monaco’s academy.
Apollon FC spokesman Fanourios Constantinou, said that although their budget is lower than last year’s, they are leaving a window open for signing quality players if they get through to the Europa League group stage.
“Last year we spent an extra €1 mln on bringing quality players to help with our task in the group stage. Of course, we could count on income from the tournament,” said Constantinou.
Europe or bust
Champions APOEL FC have found themselves in a tight spot after being knocked out early from the lucrative Champions League by unfancied Lithuanian outfit FK Suduva in one of the biggest shocks the club has experienced.
However, the champions have proceeded with quality signings such as Iranian international striker Reza Ghoochannejhad. Reza, as he is widely known, was part of the Iranian squad which travelled to Russia for the World Cup this summer.
The Iranian striker has played 44 times for his country also played for Netherlands at youth level as he also has a Dutch passport.
He is valued at €1.5 mln (high for Cyprus standards). APOEL have also resigned popular Argentinian midfielder Tomas De Vincenti, whom they had sold to Saudi Arabian side Al Shabab for €2.7 mln last year.
APOEL, are not expected spend any more money to bring in more signings as much depends on their progress in the Europa League, and as it has kept most of last year’s squad.