Cyprus under-19 international footballer Nicholas Ioannou has joined reigning Cypriot champions APOEL after being released by English Premier League champions Manchester United, it was announced Tuesday.
Ioannou, 18, signed a three-year deal worth a reported 100,000 euros per year to join the Nicosia team when his contract expires in June. He represented Manchester United at various youth levels since joining their academy aged 11, and captained the under 18s in his final game for the club a fortnight ago.
“My main aim is to win trophies of course, but obviously I need to start playing. APOEL play in big competitions – Champions League or Europa League – so hopefully I can get a few games,” Ioannou told APOEL’s official website.
Meanwhile, Red Devils fans voiced disapproval at Man Utd’s interim manager Ryan Giggs’ decision not to offer the promising central defender a new contract. “Man Utd hasn’t renewed Nick Ioannou’s contract? He’s a massive talent, should’ve been given a chance,” one fan tweeted, while another wrote: “This can be officially the saddest day of 2014. Nick Ioannou is leaving the club. My favorite under 18s player.”
Ioannou is still eligible to represent either England or Cyprus at senior international level, having played only under-19 football so far for the latter. Although his last game for Cyprus U19 was 18 months ago, the manager of the Cypriot national team was reportedly spotted at Ioannou’s last match for Man Utd, fuelling speculation in the Cypriot press that a call-up to the senior side might be imminent.
Ioannou, who father captained the Cypriot national side and now manages AEK Kouklia, has already begun training with the Nicosia team, who lie second in the Cyprus first division. It is thought Ioannou was interested in playing in the English Premier League, but the prospect of Champions League football lured the talented youngster home, although reigning Cypriot champions APOEL will have to finish the season well to retain their crown and qualify for sport’s biggest club competition.