Vágner Love has scored 103 goals for PFC CSKA Moskva but there is no question which lingers longest in the memory. "The most important goal was in the 2005 UEFA Cup final against Sporting [Clube de Portugal]," he said. "That goal earned CSKA a historic victory."
Love's strike was the third in a 3-1 victory over the Portuguese side in Lisbon and rekindles warm feelings for the forward, now in his second spell in the Russian capital. Back in Moscow and back among the goals after a stint in his homeland, the Brazilian could be the man to spur CSKA's UEFA Europa League challenge. The competition may have changed identity, but Love's affection for it remains the same.
Two years ago he was the UEFA Cup's leading scorer with 11 goals; this season he has already scored twice with a brace in CSKA's opening-night win at FC Lausanne-Sport. Ahead of Thursday's trip to US Città di Palermo, CSKA top Group F with six points from two games and victory in Sicily could virtually guarantee their Round of 32 place.
Certainly, spending the last 12 months on loan at SE Palmeiras and CR Flamengo has not blinded Love's eye for goal. Flamengo, who benefited from four Love strikes in only five league appearances, were looking to prolong the deal. However, CSKA insisted on Love, who had left Russia for personal reasons, returning.
Any doubts over Love's commitment to the cause were immediately banished as the 20-cap Brazil player hit CSKA's injury-time winner in his comeback game at FC Spartak Moskva on 1 August. "We all know Vágner Love's class," CSKA president Eugeni Giner said. "
We know he will be an inspiration to us again."
And so it has proved. Love has netted another five top-flight goals since to move level with Alan Dzagoev as CSKA's leading Premier-Liga marksman of the campaign. His strike at FC Tom Tomsk on 26 September was his his 100th in all competitions for the club he joined in 2004 from Palmeiras. It also earned him admission to the Grigory Fedotov club as CSKA's 68th centurion – and the first non-Russian or non-Soviet player to achieve the feat.
Love's target is to keep adding to his tally. "
I have a contract until 2014 and I will honour it," the 26-year-old said. "Yes, I like the Spanish, English and Italian leagues and I watch them. Sometimes I dream of playing for another team in another city. If I get an offer from a big club, which is good both for me and for CSKA, I may end up leaving. But I don't actively want to leave Moscow. I have been here since 2004 and am used to the lifestyle. The club and the fans treat me well. I will do my best to help CSKA win trophies."
Music to CSKA ears. "Playing with a top player like him is a pleasure," strike partner Seydou Doumbia said. "He reads the game so well and is always available for a pass." CSKA coach Leonid Slutski added: "A lot of coaches would love somebody like him in their team.
When Vágner is in peak condition, physically and psychologically, he is the best striker to have played in Russia." Good enough to have fired CSKA to Russia's first European club trophy – and good enough, the Army Men hope, to do so again.