Kari Arnason so glad to reject seasons in the sun for Aberdeen

Kari Arnason has warned that Aberdeens Cypriot opponents will provide a tough test. Picture: SNS
Kari Arnason has warned that Aberdeens Cypriot opponents will provide a tough test. Picture: SNS
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Kari Arnason was so determined to escape the football backwater of Cyprus for a return to a higher-profile, higher-pressure life at Aberdeen that he was happy to take a financial hit to make it 

The versatile Iceland international played just eight games for Omonia Nicosia but that was long enough to know he had to do what was necessary to push through the move when manager Derek McInnes, pictured, made his interest known.

It may have ended up costing him money in the short term but Arnason clearly feels it is a price worth paying for a second chance at success at a club he last played for five years ago under Craig Brown.

Not that he has made an entirely clean break, though, as his first two competitive games on rejoining Aberdeen will be against Apollon
Limassol in the third round of Europa League 

Arnason may have been desperate to leave the sunshine island after just six months, but that does not mean he anticipates an easy time against their Cypriot opponents when the tie gets underway at Pittodrie on Thursday.

“It was an easy decision for me to come back even though it wasn’t easy to get out of where I was” he claimed. “It was a difficult situation as the club I was at didn’t want to let me go, but as soon as I heard Aberdeen were interested I wanted to make the move.

“I just told them that straight up from the get-go and I had to make a few sacrifices to get here, but I’m very happy.

“It is worth it for the chance to play in a very good team in a very competitive league with some massive games, starting with the European one this week.

“Apollon are one of six teams that are decent over in Cyprus and the rest you should beat every time you play them.

“They are a very good team, going forward especially as they have pace and they have good movement up front.

“If you press Apollon high it’s critical that you don’t sell yourself doing it because they are technical players and they will go past you if you do that.

“The top end in Cyprus is competitive and clubs like Apollon pay good money so they get in good quality 

“That means it won’t be easy as they are a good team and we have to respect that but still we have a very good chance to get through.”

Arnason has made a major impact in European football at international level with Iceland since leaving Aberdeen for Rotherham United in the summer of 2012.

He was in the Iceland side that delighted everyone except the English during the finals of Euro 2016 where they eventually lost to host nation France in the quarter-final .

On the way Arnason helped shackle Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane as Iceland drew with eventual winners Portugal in the group stages and memorably defeated England in the last 16.

However, a player with 60 caps for his country reckons it was much tougher facing unknown strikers with Rotherham in League Two down south than it was coping with some of football’s 

He added: “If you can play well against those big players then you should be comfortable going in against the smaller ones. But it’s not always like that, as the hardest league I played in was League Two in England.

“It’s so random the sort of players you come up against down at that level as it is easier to face the best players.

“The sharpness of the top players is obviously at a different level but the not so good ones can be more difficult to read what they will do.

“The lower you go the more random the decision making becomes so I had to try to read things differently.

“Hopefully, though, I can help the team as it’s not about my individual performances as long as I can contribute to good results in the Premiership and Europe.”

Arnason has only been back at Pittodrie for a few days and the only game he has played in so far was a run-out against Brechin City on Sunday when he scored in a 4-1 win. However, even the way they were set up for that friendly left him realising it is a much more impressive club under McInnes than the one he left behind in 2012.

He added:”It’s all top notch now in terms of the preparation for every game, even the one I played at Brechin.

“It is a lot more professional now and that is very helpful in terms of trying to get results in the league and Europe as well.

“When I left I knew that was Aberdeen’s chance to go for it as back then Rangers were in turmoil and they have taken that opportunity really well.

“I’ve always looked for Aberdeen’s results while I’ve been away and it is brilliant to see how well the club has been doing in the last few years.

“That obviously comes from the manager who is very composed and has real enthusiasm for the game which comes across strongly.”