With his goals steering Uzbekistan through to Asia's final round of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and spearheading Bunyodkor to the last four of the AFC Champions League, 2008 proved a landmark year for Server Djeparov. The on-field achievements saw Djeparov crowned the AFC Player of the Year ahead of such luminaries as UAE's Ismail Matar and Japan's Yasuhito Endo.
"I am hoping to win the Asian title with Bunyodkor, represent the continent at this year's FIFA Club World Club and then move to a top club in Europe," the 26-year-old midfielder told FIFA.com in a recent exclusive interview. "However my chief goal is to help Uzbekistan make it to South Africa 2010."
Long before he won Asia's ultimate individual accolade, Djeparov had made a name for himself on the domestic stage. After breaking into the local scene with Navbahor Namangan in 2000, he moved to glamour club Pakhtakor, where he claimed every piece of domestic silverware on offer in a six-year stint. Last year Djeparov switched to Tashkent-based club Bunyodkor making an immediate impact by leading the emerging club to a league and cup double, plus a semi-final appearance in the continental club showpiece.
Not surprisingly, he became the darling of the Bunyodkor supporters, scoring 19 goals to top the league's scoring chart. Djeparov, who says he has modelled his game on Juventus superstar Alessandro Del Piero, explained he has developed a habit of scoring regularly in addition to creating goals.
"To be honest, I have been a consistent performer in the national championship over the recent years, averaging 13-14 goals each season." He went on, "I think I would be the top scorer if you put all these goals together."
With his prolific form at club level, it didn't take Djeparov long to open his national team account when he was on target in their 3-0 thrashing of Palestine in qualifying for Germany 2006. He would add eleven more to that in the following year, including netting four times in last year's South Africa 2010 third qualifying stage, helping fire Uzbekistan into Asia's final ten.
Any player boasting such a phenomenal scoring record sets the bar high and Djeparov is no exception. "My club Bunyodkor won almost everything last season with only one chief honour evading us - the title of the AFC Champions League," he says. "And my country has yet to make it to the World Cup even once. I will do my utmost to achieve both."
While Bunyodkor is faring well both domestically and on the Asian front, Uzbekistan is languishing at bottom of the group with just a single point from four games, with their qualifying hopes hanging by a thread. But Djeparov believes they are not yet out. "We must remain optimistic for the future. We have to raise our game to defeat Qatar in the next game. We have a chance as long as we can achieve good results in the remaining games."
One of the obvious advantages of winning the Asian individual title was a one-month trial with Chelsea - an agreement between the Uzbek and English giants. Although any instant move looks beyond him, Djeparov said he is ready when it comes.
"I am still waiting for the trial and it is a precious chance to rub shoulders with those world-class players. It is every player's dream to feature in any top leagues in Europe and I am prepared to embrace it if the chance arises.