Omonia Nicosia record-breaker Loizos Loizou believes Cristiano Ronaldo remains the world’s best – but is ready to prove why he is one of Europe’s rising stars.
The 19-year-old is aiming to pile more misery onto Manchester United when they travel to the GSP Stadium in the Europa League on Thursday.
As Omonia’s youngest player and scorer, having made his debut at just 15, he carries the hopes of his home-town club and country, as he is also the youngest player in Cyprus’ history.
Thursday’s Group E game represents the chance for Omonia and Loizou to keep the heat on Erik ten Hag following United’s 6-3 Premier League thumping at Manchester City.
Ronaldo was an unused substitute at the Etihad and his influence has dropped dramatically this season, but Loizou remains one of his biggest admirers.
“Omonia aren’t on FIFA – not yet – so when I play I always take the team of Cristiano,” the forward told the PA news agency. “Growing up I had a Real Madrid shirt, a Portugal one as well with Ronaldo on. He was always my idol.
“I’m not nervous, I’m not scared, I’m very excited we will face Cristiano and United.
“Ronaldo is the best player in the world. If we give him even one chance, he will hurt us. This is why we have to try to stop him. He is the best killer in football.
“Even with his difficult time now, he’s the best. We have to stop him. I watched all his games at Real Madrid. Now we’re going to play against each other.”
There are comparisons between the pair, none more so than Loizou – who can play wide or as a central forward – being his country’s brightest star at such a young age.
He scored in just his third international game – a 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic – to become Cyprus’ youngest scorer, having made his debut against Montenegro aged 17 in September 2020.
Loizou is known as Omonia’s ‘diamond’, one of their own, with the expectation of becoming the country’s best export, and has become accustomed to being in the spotlight from an early age.
“For a young player to make four records in Cyprus is good,” he said. “To play from 15 years old in the First Division is a bit like Wayne Rooney.
“It’s been four years now, since I made my debut. When I scored my first goal for Omonia at 16 – I dribbled past three players and scored from outside the box – the fans saw something special. This is why they want pictures and autographs.
“That has never been hard. With my character I know I have to make my dreams come true and I feel free to make it because this is the life of a player.
“To be the diamond is very difficult because you always have to play 10 out of 10. If you play nine out of 10 the fans, the club, won’t accept it.
“You have to always be the best. I like the pressure because I’ve always wanted to be one of the best – I didn’t just want to play. If you want to be one of the best, you have to accept the pressure.”
Loizou has already attracted interest from Stuttgart while Club Brugge had an offer worth 2.5million euros rejected in the summer and there is a sense he has limited time left in Cyprus.
Yet as much as he loves Omonia, now managed by Neil Lennon, there is a burning ambition to progress.
— OMONOIA FC (@OMONOIAfootball) October 4, 2022
“When I started I wanted to be an idol for the fans and the team and then, afterwards, to play in a better league,” said Loizou, who has been signed by the same agency which represents United’s Raphael Varane and Tottenham’s Son Heung-min.
“From when I was young, I had two dreams. The first was to play for Omonia and be one of the idols of the team. The second one was to play in the five best leagues in the world.
“I will give everything to make my dreams come true. I haven’t got the move yet but if there is something at the end of the season, it’s good for me. I want to play in the Premier League.
“The club is the club I grew up with – the first and last team I’ve played for. I’m very happy at Omonia as they gave me everything to make my dreams come true.
“It will always be difficult to leave the team of your dreams.”