PFC Levski Sofia's record goalscorer Nasko Sirakov will urge the club on to UEFA Cup glory this evening in his new role as executive director.
PFC Levski Sofia's record goalscorer Nasko Sirakov is urging the club on to UEFA Cup glory in his new role as executive director.
Now 43, Sirakov is a Levski legend, having registered 206 goals in 258 games for the team, winning five Bulgarian titles and three Bulgarian Cups, as well as a double with PFC Slavia Sofia, and also scoring 23 times in 82 internationals.
Nothing to lose
However, the current side could eclipse the illustrious Sirakov if they take his beloved Levski beyond quarter-final opponents FC Schalke 04 and into the UEFA Cup semi-finals. As far as the 1994 FIFA World Cup hero is concerned, they have nothing to lose.
"We have already surpassed expectations," he told uefa.com. "Few believed Levski could come this far. Now we want to play for our superb fans. I want them to be happy after both legs against the German team, and proud of our performances regardless of the final outcome."
As Schalke visit Sofia tonight, Sirakov believes his side are under no pressure, having beaten famous European names like AJ Auxerre, Olympique de Marseille and Udinese Calcio en route from the second qualifying round to the last eight.
Sirakov is aware of the quality Schalke possess but is not afraid. "Teams like Auxerre and Marseille are probably as good as Schalke," he said. "Of course the German club are favourites to win the tie, but if we play as we have done so far, we have a chance.
"Schalke always put their opponents under pressure," he added. "They have some great individuals, but they are very strong as a team. If we can compete physically, if we run and press as much as them and also use our skills and improvise, then we can do something."
Levski go into the match on the back of a terrific domestic run which has seen them cancel out PFC CSKA Sofia's seven-point lead in the Premier League. Sirakov is already thinking about summer signings and a UEFA Champions League campaign in 2006/07.
"This summer we intend to sign two quality players," he said. "We will not sell any of our biggest assets unless we receive really good offers from top European clubs. With no disrespect to the other Bulgarian sides, we have shown we are the only one club capable of making a genuine assault on the UEFA Champions League group stage."
Reaching the group stage would be a famous first for a Bulgarian club. However, there is no doubt a UEFA Cup success remains an even bigger prize.