By Kestas Gimbutas
With 2005 fast approaching, there is still some uncertainty about the make-up of the Lithuanian league for the coming campaign.
In the 2004 season, eight clubs competed in the first division. None were relegated as plans were afoot to expand it at least ten sides. The new season will not start until April, meaning the eleven clubs trying for a UEFA licence face a wait to see what happens.
One thing is for sure, reigning champions FBK Kaunas will again be the team to beat after claiming the sixth title in their history. Coach Valdas Ivanauskas has signed a new one-year contract and is looking to Brazilian talent for the coming season, with four players from the South American country bidding to win a place in the squad. Ivanauskas said: "In order to succeed in the UEFA Champions League, we need to improve our squad." Kaunas will compete in the Commonwealth Cup in Moscow next month.
While Ivanauskas is staying put, FK Zalgiris Vilnius have sacked Kestutis Latoza, the former Lithuanian national team coach who quickly resurfaced at FK Vilnius. Meanwhile, Vacys Lekevièius stood down as coach of FK Atlantas but will remain as the club's president.
On the playing front, OGC Nice striker Edgaras Jankauskas, who won the Champions League with FC Porto, was named the best Lithuanian player. It was his fifth such honour, meaning he has become the most successful footballer in the history of the Baltic state as Arminas Narbekovas and Valdas Ivanauskas each won the prestigious title four times. The best domestic player was Kaunas midfield player Andrius Gedgaudas.
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