FC Spartak Moskva have been busy bolstering their ranks with the start of the UEFA Champions League group stage fast approaching, and recent acquisition Nicolás Pareja admits he is itching to get stuck into Europe's premier club competition.
One of a small band of players to move from the Spanish Liga to the Russian Premier League, the 26-year-old centre-back spent the past two seasons with RCD Espanyol, having previously won the Belgian title and Belgian Cup during a two-year stint at RSC Anderlecht.
"It's clear that the Spanish league is one of the strongest in the world," Pareja told UEFA.com. "It's obvious that, for an Argentinian, it's easier to adapt there as everybody speaks Spanish, but the top clubs did not show interest in me or maybe didn't want to pay big money. The same goes for the top clubs in other big leagues."
Pareja did not think twice when Spartak came calling, however, despite the prospect of moving from the familiar environment of Barcelona to unknown Moscow. "I spent two great years in Spain, but Spartak are a big club and they showed serious interest," he added. "These were the reasons behind the move – and don't forget we are in the UEFA Champions League in the autumn. It is a challenge for me. Everybody has fears about moving to a new country, no matter what it's called. For me, an Argentinian, it doesn't make a difference where I go, be it Italy, Germany or Russia. I am in a new world regardless."
The Russian capital represents a solid choice for the former AA Argentinos Juniors defender. "I chose Moscow, a huge city which has it all," explained Pareja. "I am sure it will be easier to find things to do than in Brussels, where I played before. My family will be comfortable here, so it will be good for me. Moreover, some people on the team speak Spanish – some of the players, the coach and even the masseur."
While Spartak's assault on domestic and European honours is next on Pareja's agenda, it is victory with Argentina at the 2008 Olympics that represents his current benchmark. "There's no doubt that's the biggest achievement of my career so far, especially because I signed for Espanyol after that tournament," he said.
His dream now is to break into Argentina's senior team, and that will mean shining on the European stage – starting next month. "The Russian league is not shown on television in Argentina, so the Champions League will be my chance to attract the attention of the coaches."
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