Sergei Semak made his professional debut on 7 November 1993 with FC Asmaral Moskva. Just under 20 years later, at the age of 37 and in the colours of FC Zenit St Petersburg, he became the most seasoned player in Russian Premier League history. Zenit's 1-0 defeat at FC Rubin Kazan last month marked Semak's 453rd league appearance – a top-flight record. The former Russia midfielder spoke to UEFA.com about his achievement and what the future holds ahead of his contract expiring in May.
"Several factors have helped me achieve this," he told UEFA.com. "Luck, hard work and ambition, but of course without natural ability it would have been very difficult. I also want to say thanks to my parents for my health which has helped me avoid serious injuries. I am also grateful to the teams I've played for – there has always been a place for me."
Semak represented Asmaral (13 league games), PFC CSKA Moskva (289), FC Moskva (57) and Rubin (61) before moving to Zenit in August 2010. He remains the only player to have won the league with three different clubs – CSKA, Rubin (twice) and Zenit – and captained his country during their run to the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-finals.
"The bigger the tournament, the more matches I remember," said Semak, who also fitted in 26 Ligue 1 outings for Paris Saint-Germain FC. "EURO, UEFA Champions League and decisive matches in the Russian league stand out. At the same time, really disappointing games stay in the memory even longer. I still have a bad aftertaste from the match between CSKA and FC Lokomotiv Moskva [in 2002, which CSKA lost 1-0 to miss out on the title]."
Widely revered by supporters, Semak's exploits did not come at the expense of his education; indeed, he got a gold medal at school – a level of learning unparalleled among current Premier-Liga players. "I don't think there is a direct correlation between level of education and football," said Semak. "However, knowledge never goes to waste. I also try to put it into the heads of my children."
Semak turned 37 in February and there are just three older players in the division – Dmitri Loskov, the previous record holder who barely features for Lokomotiv; FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod captain Ruslan Dzhindzhal, a regular starter; and Armenian international Roman Berezovski, reserve goalkeeper for FC Dinamo Moskva.
It is possible all three veterans will end their careers this summer, yet Semak, a rarely used substitute in recent weeks, remains undecided. "My contract expires at the end of May," he said. "Only then will I decide if I will continue playing or stop. For the moment I do not look to the long term."
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.