Dream moves to FC Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Dinamo Moskva failed to materialise for the Estonian league's all-time top scorer, but at 34, Maksim Gruznov has not lost his desire to play and score goals.
Gruznov continues to set the mark by which all future Meistriliiga strikers will be judged, having scored 272 goals over the course of 19 seasons in the Baltic nation's top division, but regrets that he never played international football. "This is the only mark against my name," he said. "All my life I have dreamed of playing at least once for my country but it hasn't happened."
While Gruznov acknowledged modestly that he has "achieved something" in terms of his goalscoring in Estonia, and added that he still "has many things ahead", his career might have been even more celebrated had two moves to top-level Russian sides not fallen through. He came close to joining Zenit in the early 2000s and got as far as playing a friendly game for Dinamo without signing.
"An injury let me down," recalled Gruznov as he looked back to his ill-fated Zenit transfer. "Everything had been discussed and the contract was ready to sign. It is a pity it did not work out." He might also have moved to Finland, but said: "I was loyal to Trans Narva for a long time and I did not see any sense in moving from Estonia to Finland, since the standard was about the same."
Gruznov had spent much of his career at JK Trans Narva, but joined rivals JK Sillimäe Kalev this winter amid concerns that he might be about to lose his first-team place. "A new coach and players joined our squad," explained the striker, who turns 35 in April. "In pre-season it was rumoured that I would not be a regular starter, but I just wanted to play."
Trans coach Sergei Ratnikov was disappointed with Gruznov's decision to leave, saying: "He might not have played much at the start of the season but I was really counting on him. I did not want him leaving and dreamed of working with him." The striker has said that he has not excluded the possibility of returning for a third spell with Trans in the future.
'A very young soul'
However, in the meantime he is going great guns at Sillimäe with three league goals in four appearances already. Coach Vadim Dobizha said of him: "He is an experienced player who knows how to score but he has a very young soul." Gruznov, meanwhile, is hoping to prove his class for a few more years to come. "I will play for two or three more years if my legs will allow me," he said.
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