Estonia's most celebrated outfield player Andres Oper seems finally to have found the club to suit him in Dutch side Roda JC.
Six months ago, the international striker was struggling to get a game in Russia with FC Torpedo Moskva. Now he is lighting up the Eredivisie with some great performances, having scored eight goals in 17 outings for Roda and picked up his third Estonian Player of the Year award.
'More to give'
"I am enjoying my football here at Roda," the 29-year-old told uefa.com. "It's very challenging to work with a new club and a new coach. At Roda, training is tough but interesting and we have an excellent team spirit. I have scored some great goals, but I still believe I have a lot more to give."
Roda occupy eleventh place in the Eredivisie, although Oper insists "results and our league position do not really correspond with our potential". Nonetheless, it is a step up in the world considering substitute cameos had been his stock in trade at Torpedo.
"Last year kicked off fine, but then I ran into problems in Russia with injuries and losing [Torpedo] coach Sergei Petrenko's trust," said Oper. "At one point I was really frustrated but fortunately the games for Estonia were going well. In August came the move to the Netherlands which gave me a fresh start."
For Estonia, Oper remained a potent force, scoring five international goals in 2005 when none of his team-mates could manage more than one. His sweet finish in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Slovakia earned him the Silverball for best Estonian goal of the year.
However, the forward was not getting carried away with the accolade. "I don't rate my goals by beauty - it is much more important that they bring a result for the team," he said. "The goal against Slovakia does not bring back happy memories as we lost a game we could have won."
He may not appreciate their aesthetic quality, but Oper has hit some crackers in the Netherlands too, four of them match-winners, and rumours suggest a number of English clubs have sent scouts across the North Sea to take a look at him.
Oper is in no hurry to leave Roda, however. "I am really happy here," he said. "I love the team and the style of the club. The only frustration is being away from my family." Oper's partner Marge - who runs the Andres Oper Football School - and daughter Emma are both back in Tallinn.
Discovered by youth side FC LSMK/Pantrid Tallinn, Oper played for FC Flora and Aalborg BK before joining Torpedo in 2003. He has scored 30 goals in 98 internationals since his debut in 1996, and Estonia's Dutch coach Jelle Goes is delighted to see him flourish at Roda.
"Andres is a great goalscorer, but even more important is that he always works for the team," said Goes. "With a team like Estonia, if a striker doesn't do his defensive work, we don't stand a chance." With Roda keeping Oper sharp, Estonia can expect to have him in top form for the upcoming UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifiers.