By Stel Stylianou
A stunning international debut goal at the home of the world champions is a dream that came true for 21 year old midfielder Onni Valakari.
The Paphos FC midfielder’s twenty yard strike sent social media in a frenzy, as Finland earned a shock 2-0 victory at the Stade De France.
Valakari’s goal may have come as a surprise for the majority of those who witnessed it, but the former Tromso man has been a shining light in what has been a very topsy turvy twelve months for Paphos FC.
Signed in January 2020 for around €400,000, Valakari ended the season as the club’s top goalscorer with five goals; an impressive feat given he only made six appearances. Unfortunately, Paphos missed out on the top 6 play offs by a point – although the league suspension in March meant the club weren’t able to compete in the remaining nine matches of a (pretty meaningless) mid table play off system.
After a dismal start to the season that saw Paphos lose three out of their opening five matches, a four game winning streak moved them up to seventh in the table, two points behind AEK Larnaca in the final play off spot. One of the four victories was at struggling APOEL, although beating the former champions 1-0 with ten men wasn’t enough to keep head coach Cameron Toshack in a job. Less than twelve hours later, the son of Liverpool and Wales legend John was sacked. Incidentally, Valakari bagged the winner at the GSP to secure a famous victory.
Valakari is on course to match last season’s goal tally as he is currently on three in nine games, and his superb strike in Wednesday night’s international friendly will do his confidence no harm at all.
His performances in Cyprus have reportedly caught the eye of Marcelo Bielsa, as many publications believe a move to Leeds United in January is on the horizon.
Should the newly promoted Premier League side add Valakari to the squad, they will have a player with not only a superb attitude and character, but someone who uses the ball well with limitedtouches under pressure. A box to box midfielder, whose biggest strength is running at defenders with the ball – as seen in France -and timing runs into the box. Defensively, Valakari needs toimprove on his break up play, although he is more than likely to be deployed as an attacking midfielder.
A move to one of Europe’s major leagues is now on the cards;something that’ll please Valakari and his employers, whose “Moneyball” transfer methods are about to strike oil.