Fourteen goals for FBK Kaunas made Rafael Rodrigues Ledesma the Lithuanian league's top scorer in 2008, but the Brazilian midfielder is eager to leave the Baltic nation, saying: "I need to move on. I can't stop developing."
The A Lyga's Player of the Year for 2007, Ledesma – also known as Rafael Gaúcho – dazzled Lithuania last season with his dribbling and technical skills. This time around the former CA Mineiro playmaker caught the eye with his goalscoring. "I changed position and worked really hard in training as well," he told uefa.com. "I've gained more confidence and started to score more, which is a great pleasure."
Kaunas may have lost the title this term, finishing as runners-up some ten points behind FK Ekranas, yet their 25-year-old talisman enjoyed the campaign nonetheless. He said: "Of course we were down when we lost the decisive match at Ekranas [by 2-1 on 5 November] but we had some great games, beating Rangers FC in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and winning the Lithuanian Cup and the Baltic League."
Ledesma added that the summer arrival of former Portugal Under-21 boss José Couceiro as Kaunas coach had helped him raise his game. "The team made great progress under his guidance," said the Porto Alegre-born attacker. "We started to play some quality football. He wanted us to enjoy as much possession as possible. We did that better than any other Lithuanian team."
'Clearly the best'
There are few players in Lithuania who can match Ledesma in terms of class. FK Vėtra coach Virginius Liubšys does not rate many of the imports to the A Lyga, yet makes an exception for the EC Juventude old boy, saying: "Most foreigners in this league are not real footballers. We need players a class above our local ones. Ledesma is one of those. He is clearly the best foreign player in Lithuania."
Ekranas coach Valdas Urbonas agreed, saying "on his day he is virtually unstoppable", but Ledesma's ambition now is to leave Lithuania. Low crowds are a problem – "the atmosphere is killing me" – and he hopes to find a bigger audience elsewhere. "Hopefully I will be able to join a western European club in January. I need to move on. I can't stop developing."
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