"I score goals, I set them up and I run like hell," Zagreb's Arjan Rexhepi told UEFA.com, the trained mechanic having set his sights on replacing Pedro Rodríguez at Camp Nou.
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Early contender for goal of the tournament at the UEFA Regions' Cup: 75 minutes into his side's 4-0 win against Dolnośląski on matchday one, 20-year-old substitute Arjan Rexhepi half-volleyed a defensive clearance into the top corner of Marcin Gąsiorowski's net. In the world's top amateur football tournament, a star was born. "I am happy with the shot, of course," he told UEFA.com, oozing a certain cool confidence. "I meant to hit it that way and it went in."
The general consensus is that the standard of football at the UEFA Regions' Cup gets better every year, and after making a devastating start in Group B, Zagreb are already being touted as one of the best attacking outfits in Dublin. Coach Sreten Ćuk reckoned his team were outsiders the day before the finals started but had changed his tune dramatically after seeing his charges plough into their Polish opponents.
"We were confident before the game and proved to be the better and more organised side," Ćuk beamed. "We were strong from the first minute and dominated the second half." Captain Nikica Brujić – scorer of Zagreb's first – added: "We were strong in attack and came out on to the pitch with one goal: to win this game. We are satisfied with our performance and we hope we can build on this momentum in the next match."
The momentum is most certainly with Rexhepi – one of two players to register twice on the opening day. Born in Germany to a Bosnian mother and a Kosovar father, he has lived in Croatia since he was seven, and having finished his training as a mechanic, is now hoping the UEFA Regions' Cup can help to keep him from spending too long under the bonnets of cars. "I'm hoping someone will spot me and take me to a European club," he said.
What would potential managers see in Rexhepi? As he puts it himself: "I score goals, I set them up and I run like hell." What senior player would he compare himself to? "Pedro Rodríguez." Dream destination? "Barcelona!" Whether he gets to start for the Croatian representatives in their next game – against Eastern Region NIR – is a moot point. "I will do what the coach says, whether I start or I am on the bench," he said diplomatically.
Now turning out for NK HAŠK in the Croatian third division, and training hard, Rexhepi has put himself on the European radar here in Ireland. Next stop: Camp Nou.
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