Cristiano Lucarelli insisted he had no regrets about leaving Italy for FC Shakhtar Donetsk after scoring a tremendous header against Celtic FC last night.
Eyebrows were raised across Europe when the 31-year-old left AS Livorno Calcio to join the Ukrainian side in an €8m move this summer, but after marking his UEFA Champions League group stage debut with an eighth-minute goal in the 2-0 victory at the RSC Olympiyskiy Stadium - a powerful header from Răzvan Raţ's cross - the switch is already paying off for the man in the No99 shirt.
Ripe for success
"I am happy," he said. "Today I played in the Champions League for the first time in my life. In this tournament it is hard to score against any opponent, but I was ready for this responsibility and pressure. I am 31 and I have plenty of experience from my time in Italy. Today we really were better than Celtic. We were more focused and made fewer mistakes. We deserved this victory."
It was for nights like Tuesday that the five-times capped international left Italy. Having already scored in Europe for his club as Shakhtar overcame FC Salzburg 3-2 on aggregate in the third qualifying round, he said: "I don't regret leaving Serie A. I moved to Shakhtar to play Champions League football. To do that regularly in Italy you need to play for [AC] Milan, [FC] Internazionale [Milano] or Juventus. Players from other clubs need to leave the country to do so, like [Massimo] Donati at Celtic."
With a trip to SL Benfica to come in their next Group D game before a double-header against European champions Milan, Lucarelli said he was not setting himself any goalscoring targets for the group stage. "I am not expecting to score in every group match," he said. "The most important thing is for Shakhtar to advance. We had to win the first match to make our task easier. The statistics say that if you win the first match you have more chances of reaching the knockout stage. I hope this is true for us. I don't know how many points will take us through, but we have made a good start. We will see where this result takes us."
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