During the last few days of the transfer window, Cyprus football clubs splashed millions as teams tried to strengthen their squads in the fight for the title and a golden ticket to European tournaments.
Despite being battered by two years of the pandemic, Cypriot football has emerged fairly unscathed from the coronavirus crisis and back to spending serious cash.
In the last two weeks of the transfer window, two top-flight teams dished out a record €1.5 mln each to bring in players from the French league, while others have offered handsome compensation to bring in big names of international football.
Omonia Nicosia under the guidance of former Celtic Boss Neil Lennon, paid €1.5 mln to convince French Ligue 1 Stade Reims to let go of Moreto Cassama.
Transfermarkt recorded the transfer fee as €1.5 mln, with Omonia officially saying they have spent €1.2 mln plus €300,000 in addons.
Cassamá, 24, plays in midfield and represented Portugal at U21 level before switching to Guinea-Bissau.
He was selected for the Guinea-Bissau national team for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and made his international debut in the last group match against Ghana.
He has made 15 appearances for his national team.
The box-to-box midfielder has a market value of €3.5 mln.
He made his debut with Omonia in the team’s away loss to newcomers Akritas Chlorakas in Paphos.
Cassama was sent off with a second yellow card, which coach Lennon said was a wrong call from the ref.
Omonia also signed the captain of Iran’s national team, striker Karim Ansarifard, paid €600,000 at his previous club AEK Athens, and Ukrainian international midfielder Roman Bezus.
Omonia had an offer of €1.2 mln rejected for Aris Salonica’s Argentine winger Daniel Mancini.
Pafos FC Russian investors have also put their hands deep into their pockets, dishing out €1.5 mln for Senegalese international defensive midfielder Moustapha Name. He has five caps for Senegal.
The Paphos club bought Name, 27, from French Ligue 2 Paris FC.
The Paphian team also brought in 25-year-old Mamadou Kane, a Guinean international midfielder on loan from Greek champions Olympiacos Piraeus.
Kane has played 17 times for his national team.
Pafos FC hired one of the best managers Cypriot club money could buy, bringing former Manchester United star Henning Berg.
Berg had led Omonia back to glory during his 2.5-year tenure, leading the greens to their first championship after a decade of failures.
In Limassol, investors of Aris have been making noise on the transfer market, although they have not splashed out millions.
Aris Limassol has signed Russian international Aleksandr Kokorin on loan from Italian side Fiorentina.
Kokorin had his breakthrough season in 2012–13, which led to Dynamo Moscow inserting a €19 million release clause into his contract.
Kokorin has also played for Zenit Saint Petersburg and Spartak Moscow.
Aris also signed Abdel Medioub, 25, an Algerian international defender, bringing him in as a free agent.
FA unconcerned over big spending
With big money being splashed around, one would expect local football authorities to be on their toes looking into whether the latest transfers could threaten club viability.
Sources close to the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) told the Financial Mirror that clubs spending big have remained within the Financial Fair Play rules set by the European governing body UEFA.
Omonia Nicosia is within the limits as they expect close to €5 mln to flow into their coffers from participating in the Europa League Group stage.
They are in a money-making group with Manchester United and Spanish side Real Sociedad.
Omonia is also considered the best-supported club and has already sold over 7,000 season tickets.
For Pafos and Aris Limassol, authorities are convinced they are sustainable as they have received ‘contributions’ from their investors while building up their fan base.
Pafos FC has more or less the support of thousands of Paphians, while Aris is becoming very popular in its hometown of Limassol, especially among the Russian-speaking community.
However, according to the Financial Mirror, the CFA are concerned over a recent takeover of a second-tier club Digenis ENY Ypsona by a Russian investor who changed the club’s name.
The team is stepping into a new era under Russian investor Yevgeny Savin, a former footballer and YouTuber.
For the 2022-2023 season, the team will be renamed FC Krasava – ENY Ypsona, taking the name of a football club Savin started in Russia in 2020.
It is the third Limassol-based club to be taken over by a foreign investor, following top-flight Aris and Karmiotissa FC from Kato Polemidia.
Confirming the deal, Savin took to social media to announce that following the registration of FC Krasava LTD, the company agreed with ENY Digenis Ypsona to purchase the club.
In a post on Instagram, FC Krasava’s big man said it was the first Russian team to move to Cyprus, bringing along its history and mentality.