FC Twente's Vagif Dzhavadov says it will be a "dream" to play in the UEFA Champions League but first the striker hopes old club FK Qarabağ prosper in the UEFA Europa League.
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The 2009 Azerbaijan player of the year Vagif Dzhavadov will keep a close eye on FK Qarabağ when they conclude their UEFA Europa League second qualifying round tie against Portadown FC on Thursday. It was only last season that the striker played for Qarabağ in the UEFA Europa League play-offs to catch the eye of his new club FC Twente.
Although the Azerbaijani Premyer Liqası team lost to Twente in the play-offs, Qarabağ had already caused a stir by knocking out Rosenborg BK and FC Honka Espoo. Twente's then coach Steve McClaren was sufficiently impressed to move to secure Dzhavadov's services after the Dutch side's 3-1 aggregate win. "He is a very gifted player with a bright future," McClaren said. "I insisted on the transfer."
Dzhavadov, 21, duly became the first Azeri player to sign for a Dutch top-flight club when he joined in January. A knee injury would blight his first six months in Enschede, yet he is beginning to make a pre-season impact as Netherlands' title winners gear up for a first UEFA Champions League group stage campaign.
"I was upset when I got injured after the move," Dzhavadov said. "I have almost recovered although the right leg is not quite there yet. Hopefully I will be able to avoid any more injuries and play in the UEFA Champions League. I have been dreaming about that for so long."
The Baku-born forward developed his footballing talent in the PFC CSKA Moskva academy, where he landed aged seven. However, he signed professional terms with Qarabağ in 2006 and made his international debut seven days before his 17th birthday on 18 May that year.
He has since scored four times in 24 national-team outings, while his performances helped Qarabağ lift the 2009 Azerbaijani Cup. Nonetheless, it was his displays last August against Twente that may have had the greatest effect on his fledgling career.
"Twente noticed me during our Europa League tie but a club like that would not sign you on the basis of two games," he said. "Twente's representatives scouted me on international duty, and it happened to be a good spell for me as I scored against Liechtenstein and Russia in FIFA World Cup qualifiers."
In fact, Dzhavadov's goal against Russia earned Azerbaijan a surprise 1-1 home draw last October. Now he is keen to be at the vanguard of a generation of Azeri players who, he believes, are capable of prospering outside their homeland.
This vintage includes the Qarabağ side that beat FK Metalurg Skopje in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round, before defeating Portadown in last week's second qualifying round first leg in Northern Ireland. "Coach Gurban Gurbanov is the key factor in Qarabağ's success and their development of young players," Dzhavadov explained. "He helped me reach this level. Most of the national team play for Qarabağ. I support them in the Europa League 100% as their progress will help the young players."