Republic of Ireland international Jonny Hayes has made a “significant financial sacrifice” to return to Aberdeen after three years with Celtic.
The Dubliner was released by the Glasgow giants at the start of the month and now returns to Pittodrie on a two-year deal having already played 207 times for Aberdeen across a five-year spell between 2012 and 2017.
“Bringing Jonny back to the club is fantastic,” said Dons manager Derek McInnes on the club's website on Tuesday morning. “In light of the current financial circumstances as a result of the pandemic, this has only been possible due to Jonny being out of contract and his real desire to rejoin Aberdeen.
“Jonny’s determination and willingness to return here is illustrated by his generous gesture to make it happen. He has never hidden his love for Aberdeen, and indeed I know his family enjoyed living in the North East, so it is no surprise to me that he was prepared to make a financial sacrifice in order to return.”
Club chairman Dave Cormack has been consistent in his take on the threat facing clubs like Aberdeen as a result of the pandemic for some months now. He warned last April that the former Uefa Cup champions could lose £5m to the shutdown.
“I appreciate it is a tough time for the club given the current climate with Covid-19 but everyone wanted to make it happen,” said Hayes. “I was more than happy to play my part by foregoing some financial gain and I am just thankful it was concluded positively.
“I want to come back and win some winners medals. I think everyone associated with Aberdeen deserves it. There have been a few near misses with some of the recent finals, but it would be very nice to come back and win some trophies.”
Hayes was a crowd favourite at Aberdeen before leaving for Celtic, picking up a League Cup medal in 2014 after a defeat of former club Inverness CT in the final and ending that season with the SPFL goal of the season award to boot.
Now 32, he was nominated twice for the PFA Scotland player of the year during his time in red and made the PFA Premiership team of the year for 2015-16 and 2016-17. The fact that he had interest from English Championships clubs before returning now will only endear him to the fans more.
Celtic won eight domestic trophies in his time at Parkhead, including three league titles, and former striker Chris Sutton expressed his surprise at Celtic manager Neil Lennon's decision to let the left-winger go a few weeks ago.
“We sold Jonny to Celtic three years ago and he was a key player in our team, but he returns undoubtedly a better player for his experiences and will provide excellent cover in the left-sided area of the pitch following Greg Leigh’s departure,” said Aberdeen's McInnes.
“I can’t wait to see him perform in our team once again.”
Hayes has won four senior caps for the Republic of Ireland, starting with a half-hour off the bench against Switzerland in a 2016 friendly in Dublin and finishing with an hour against Uruguay in another friendly at the same venue 15 months later.