AC Omonia hope that the return of forward Efstathios Aloneftis can help them restore lost pride in Cyprus as the side get ready to kick off their UEFA Cup campaign.
Article top media content
Without a league title since 2002/03, Omonia go into their opening UEFA Cup first qualifying round tie at home against Macedonian side FK Milano next Thursday looking to regain top billing on the island after falling behind neighbours APOEL FC and Anorthosis Famagusta FC in the last five years. However, with the 25-year-old Aloneftis back, it could be that better days are coming.
The 22-times capped winger left Omonia for Larissa FC in 2005, winning a Greek Cup before moving on to Germany's FC Energie Cottbus last summer. However, while he continued to be one of Cyprus's top performers in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying, scoring against San Marino and Slovakia, he struggled to earn a first-team place at his club.
However, it was a major surprise when the former academy graduate chose to return to Omonia. "The board of our club announces the signing of 25-year-old Cypriot attacker, Stathis Aloneftis," read a club statement released on Saturday 28 June. "Aloneftis will be an Omonia player for the next five years after signing a contract with the club."
For newly appointed club president Miltiades Neophytou – who is reported to have paid €1m to persuade Cottbus to release the player – the signing was a major coup. Omonia have released 13 players since the end of last season and signed 15, but as hundreds gathered at Larnaca airport to greet Aloneftis when he returned to Cyprus last Thursday, it was clear who was the biggest new arrival.