APOEL FC's deadline-day signing John Arne Riise admits the allure of UEFA Champions League football was too good a chance to turn down.
Defender Riise, who won Europe's premier club competition with Liverpool FC in extraordinary circumstances in 2005, swapped Fulham FC for Nicosia on Monday, catching Cypriot football followers by surprise. APOEL fans were equally taken aback by the news, which came less than a week after their team secured qualification for the group stage – for the third time – via a 5-1 aggregate victory against Aalborg BK in the play-offs.
"The main reason for joining APOEL is because they offered me a new challenge," the 33-year-old left-back told the club's website. "The fact they are playing Champions League football and competing for the top titles in Cyprus means they are fulfilling my ambitions as a footballer. It is a big challenge for me to once again play in a top European competition. APOEL have presented me with a chance to play in the Champions League again and that makes me really happy as it was something I was not expecting."
The Cypriot champions have already shown they are a tough nut to crack in the UEFA Champions League. They drew twice with Club Atlético de Madrid and once with Chelsea FC on their maiden appearance in the competition proper in 2009, before really making a name for themselves two seasons later. They defeated the likes of FC Zenit, FC Porto and Olympique Lyonnais en route to the 2011/12 quarter-finals where they succumbed to mighty Real Madrid CF.
Giorgos Donis's men, who eliminated HJK Helsinki prior to the AaB tie, can expect an even tougher assignment this time having been drawn alongside FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and AFC Ajax in Group F. First up is a trip to the Camp Nou on Wednesday 17 September.
"With Barcelona, PSG and Ajax, I believe our group will be very close as far as qualifying goes and I cannot wait to represent APOEL against all those sides," said Riise, who earned 110 caps for Norway. "My goal is always to win trophies because, being a footballer, I always want to be a winner. I hate losing."
Riise is the second player to move to APOEL having previously plied their trade at Anfield. Terry McDermott was a three-time European Cup winner with Liverpool when he moved to Nicosia in 1985, helping APOEL to one league title in two years on the island. Riise is confident he too will fit in well.
"APOEL share the same goals as me," he added. "I am a player who works hard to be successful and that is what I will do with APOEL. The important thing for me is to have motivation and targets – being at APOEL means I have both. Just like the club can offer me something, I can offer something back to them."
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