Winger Jonny Hayes’ Aberdeen return will surely be welcomed by the Red Army after the classy way he exited the club for Celtic in 2017.
The Republic of Ireland international has agreed to rejoin the Dons on a two-year deal, having left Parkhead recently.
Hayes exited Pittodrie for the Hoops three years ago with his head held high and his reputation with the Red Army intact.
Aberdeen fought off competition from Premiership newcomers Dundee United and the English Championship to land the 32-year-old playmaker.
After five years at Pittodrie from 2012 to 2017, Hayes repaid Aberdeen’s role in his career by ensuring they landed a seven-figure transfer fee for his exit.
During the 2017 January transfer window, Hayes had been the subject of three rejected bids from Cardiff City, with the final offer £650,000.
Just weeks after that window closed, he signed a one-year contract extension. That almost doubled his price when Celtic came calling later that summer.
On leaving Aberdeen, Hayes tweeted: “I loved every minute there, a proper family club.
“Everyone, from the chairman down, have nothing but my respect and admiration as I leave, none more so than Derek McInnes – I know I owe a lot to him and Tony and the rest of his staff.
“Biggest thank-you goes to every Aberdeen fan for the way myself and my family have been treated for the last five years.
“I really hope the club goes from strength to strength.”
In a further show of gratitude, Hayes also donated funds for replacement home Aberdeen kits for those who already had his name and number printed on.
Hayes will become Aberdeen’s first signing of a summer transfer window that will be severely restricted by the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Dons have entered into talks with players, management and staff about temporary wage cuts to help lesson the hit.
Chairman Dave Cormack recently confirmed his March projection of a £5 million loss due to the shutdown will double to £10m.
It is understood Hayes made a substantial financial sacrifice to facilitate a return to Pittodrie.
Hayes was a big-game player for the Dons, who always turned it on when it mattered.
Who could forget Hayes’ sensational 35-yard left-footed strike in the 2-1 defeat of Celtic at Pittodrie in February 2014?
Last season Aberdeen struggled to deliver that attacking spark and guile to break teams down.
Hayes has that vision, passion and creativity needed and his return may be the missing piece.
Whether he is the only signing of the summer remains to be seen with finances so severely impacted by the pandemic.
A proposed permanent move for NAC Breda full-back Greg Leigh had to be scrapped due to the Covid-19 financial fallout.
However, McInnes has refused to rule out revisiting Leigh later.
Hayes turns 33 next month, but age should not be a concern. He made 26 appearances for Celtic last season and the Hoops were set to offer him a new contract until the coronavirus outbreak.
In his three seasons at Celtic, the winger won every domestic honour and also tasted Champions League action.
Now that he has that taste of regular success he will be hungry for more. There will surely also be a sense of unfinished business in cup competition with Aberdeen for Hayes on his return.
Where will Hayes play? We discussed this on our Northern Goal podcast:
Hayes won the 2014 League Cup with the Dons, but was forced off after suffering a dislocated collar bone in the opening minute of the final defeat of Inverness Caley Thistle.
In his final game for the Dons – the 2017 Scottish Cup final – he fired them ahead only for the Reds to lose 2-1.
Two players from that Scottish Cup final team have since left and returned to Aberdeen – Niall McGinn (Gwangju) and Ash Taylor (Northampton Town).
Taylor recently said: “To bring in someone of Jonny’s calibre it would be great for the club and the team. I know what type of player he is, what he brings, what type of character he is and what he brings to the changing room.
“It would be fantastic for us.”