While there is a familiar look to the ESM Golden Shoe standings with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Mario Gomez all in the top five, none for the moment can match Aleksandrs Čekulajevs.
The striker's 46 goals helped JK Trans Narva finish third in the Estonian First League – where his personal tally eclipsed the totals of four entire teams – yet the 25-year-old is keeping his feet firmly on the ground. "I don't feel giddy," he told UEFA.com. "I've already forgotten about it. I feel calm, although I know 46 goals is something pretty special."
While most players would be half his total, Čekulajevs has the nagging feeling that his final score could have been even higher. "I was close to 50," said the forward. "Here I didn't score a penalty, there I missed a good chance. My scoring rate was about 80% of my chances, so that left a slightly bitter taste."
Incredibly, Čekulajevs previously eclipsed his remarkable goal haul while at FK Auda in 2007. "I scored 51 goals in the Latvian second division four years ago," he said. "I rewrote the record books, but you can't be the best without the help of your team-mates.
I'm very grateful to my Trans colleagues; they helped me, played for me and enjoyed my goals."
Čekulajevs singled out 37-year-old strike partner Maksim Gruznov – the Estonian league's all-time top scorer and appearance record holder – as a key figure, explaining: "Maksim gave me a lot of useful tips. I would not have scored so many without them." Coach Aleksei Yagudin also received credit, with Čekulajevs saying: "Even when I played poorly he included me in the starting lineup. He told me not to think about the goals, just to keep going and believing in myself. It really helped."
Surprisingly, those 46 goals were only enough for second place in the player of the league poll among top-flight coaches, behind FC Flora Tallinn midfielder Sergei Mošnikov, but Čekulajevs remains philosophical. "I was a bit disappointed but there's no reason to be upset for long," he said. "I was voted the player of the league in a fans' poll and that was a real honour for me."
Another privilege is having his name mentioned in such close proximity to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. "I saw a headline on UEFA.com, and the article was about how Ronaldo moved to second place in the Golden Shoe race. It was both nice and funny because I am as far from Cristiano Ronaldo as I am from outer space. I like to watch him play even more than Messi."
In the meantime, Čekulajevs is keen to move on to fresh challenges rather than dwelling on his achievement. "I have to go forward," the striker said. "My future will become clear in January and then I will begin a new stage of my life.
My 46 goals are already history, but there are still other records to break."
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