Latvian striker Aleksandrs Čekulajevs, who scored an extraordinary 46 goals in 2011 for Estonian side JK Trans Narva, has moved to Malta to join local champions Valletta FC.
The 26-year-old, who trails only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the ESM Golden Shoe rankings, was linked to clubs in Greece and Turkey in January, but has opted to go with Valletta, who are on target for a 21st domestic title this season. "I have come here with the ambition of winning trophies – the Premier League, the FA Trophy," said Čekulajevs. "
Above all, I have come here to help Valletta advance further in the UEFA Champions League."
Always a powerhouse in Malta, Valletta have long been eager to prove their worth internationally, but have found it hard to battle their way through the qualifying stages of Europe's top club competition. At the turn of the year, they hired Naples-born former midfielder Antonio Esposito as their new technical director, with a special responsibility for foreign signings.
"I was very impressed with the professional set-up at Valletta," Esposito told UEFA.com. "I had talks with Valletta president Victor Sciriha and it was clear immediately that we could work together successfully."
Esposito and his assistant, countryman and former Pietà Hotspurs FC and Sliema Wanderers FC defender Mauro Di Lello, oversaw the move for Čekulajevs, with Sciriha telling UEFA.com: "Since we can field more foreign players in Europe [than we can in Malta], my focus is on getting high-ranked acquisitions for our main objective – advancing further in the most prestigious European competition: the UEFA Champions League."
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