By Andreas Vou
YOUNG Cypriot defender Nicholas Ioannou has signed for APOEL after being recently released by Manchester United,
The teenager joined United when he was just 11-years-old and went on to become an important player in each of the age groups he represented but was notified earlier this month that he would not be receiving a new deal.
As a result, APOEL have wasted no time in snapping up the promising 18-year-old centre-back who is said to have signed a three-year deal worth around €100,000 per annum.
“First of all I want to say a big thank you to APOEL for signing me, it’s a big club. 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 the club’s official website.
He participated in United’s under-15 team at the Marveld tournament in the Netherlands in June 2010, followed by the Manchester United Premier Cup at under-16 level in September later that year.
Due to his impressive performances, United awarded him a two-year scholarship which began in June 2012. However, the Red Devils were uninterested in offering Ioannou a full-time professional contract with his deal running out this summer.
He wore the captain’s armband and played the full 90 minutes in his final game for the outgoing Premier League champions two weeks ago, as his side beat southern section leaders Tottenham 1-0.
The decision not to renew the 18-year-old’s contract has come as a big surprise to United fans who viewed the Cypriot as one of the club’s best young players.
Messages of support poured in for Ioannou via social media from supporters who wished the youngster well in future endeavours while others aimed criticism at the United board for their decision to let him go.
“Man Utd hasn’t renewed Nick Ioannou’s contract? He’s a massive talent, should’ve been given a chance,” one fan tweeted.
Another said: “This can be officially the saddest day of 2014. Nick Ioannou is leaving the club. My favorite under18s player.”
Despite being eligible to play for England, Ioannou seems intent on representing Cyprus having already played for his home nation at under-19 level with his last appearance coming in a 3-0 win over Poland in November 2012.
A senior cap for the youngster seems imminent as Pambos Christodoulou, manager of the senior Cypriot national team, was in the stands at Carrington to watch Ioannou in his final match for the club.
Shortly after putting pen-to-paper on his first professional deal, the APOEL player carried out his first training session with his new club.
It was first believed that his preferred choice was to find a club in England rather than return to Cyprus but a healthy contract, first team opportunities and European football almost guaranteed for next season was enough to lure one of the island’s top talents.
Ioannou was born and raised in Cyprus before moving to Manchester, and is the son of former national team captain Demetris Ioannou who played over 100 games for both Apollon and Anorthosis, while currently the manager of AEK Kouklia.