The Chennaiyin FC fans rubbed their eyes in disbelief last Saturday. While hardly anyone anticipated his transfer move from Jamshedpur FC to materialise in double quick time, he landed in the blink of an eye on New Year’s Day. It was the ‘homecoming’ of Nerijus Valskis! One-and-a-half years after trading the Chennaiyin ‘blue’ for the Jamshedpur ‘red’, the Lithuanian livewire made a remarkable return to the two-time Indian Super League victor. What followed was all the more extraordinary! The news of his comeback broke the internet, thanks to the ardent CFC supporters who could not hide their joy on social media. On a day when ‘#HappyNewYear2022’ topped the chart, Valskis made it to the ‘Trending’ list in the country. The 34-year-old is aware of the hype surrounding his arrival in the winter window and hopes to be the ‘Goal Machine’, which Chennaiyin has been craving for, in the second half of the Indian Super League 2021-22 in Goa. In a virtual chat with DT Next on Thursday, ISL 2019-20 ‘Golden Boot’ winner Valskis spoke about his recent switch to CFC, targets for the rest of the top-flight season and more.
On his return to Chennaiyin FC
I was really excited to come back. I wanted to return earlier, but it did not happen. When I got the chance to move back ‘home’ – a place where I feel comfortable – in January, I took it. The management, staff, players and fans gave me a warm welcome, and have been supportive of me. Among the clubs that I have represented so far in my career, Chennaiyin has the best management. It takes care of every little thing. [At CFC], a player needs to think only about football. Once a Chennaiyin ‘blue’, always a Chennaiyin ‘blue’.
On the unfinished business he has at the club
If you remember, we lost the [ISL Season 6] final against ATK [at Fatorda in Goa]. The defeat was too painful to take. I want to show that we (Chennaiyin) are capable of reaching the top again. I want to achieve something special [with CFC] this season. I believe in this team. It has been playing very well. When you stay in a bio-bubble, you watch all the matches. Even after leaving Chennaiyin, I supported it. As I said earlier, it feels good to come back ‘home’.
On the conversations he has had with CFC head coach Bozidar Bandovic
I have known him (Bandovic) since my days [at Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC] in Thailand. I have come up against his former team (Buriram United FC) a couple of times. So, it was easy to speak to him [regarding the transfer]. He asked me if I wished to join [Chennaiyin] and I responded ‘yes’. He believes in me and I know what I can offer the team. The [head] coach has explained what he wants from me. He wants me to score goals, but has asked me not to become frustrated when I don’t get them.
On his objectives for the remainder of ISL Season 8 in Goa
My target is to help the team reach the play-offs. I always like to fight for trophies. We (Chennaiyin) already have two [ISL] trophies on our hands, but we need to work hard [for more success]. We have good players, coaches and staff. We can achieve something special [in ISL 2021-22], especially with this set of boys who work very hard.
On whether he is under pressure to deliver
When I play football, I am never under pressure. I only feel happiness. There is pressure when you raise kids and think about giving them a good life.
On his potential Chennaiyin comeback debut against FC Goa at Bambolim on Saturday
I can’t wait to put on the blue jersey again, but I need to [be patient] for a day. I don’t know what the coach has decided – whether he wants to start me or bring me on as a substitute in the second half. It (the number of minutes) doesn’t really matter because I am focussed on helping the team in every possible way. After two losses, the team won the last match [1-0 against Jamshedpur FC at Bambolim]. The win, which yielded three points, was important to get the confidence back.
On what he would like to convey to the CFC fans
I knew that my transfer would be spoken about, but did not expect it to be a hot topic of discussion. I received thousands of messages from the fans. Without fans, it (football) is nothing. When fans support and push the team, it does well. So, continue to support us.