Champions League: More goals than Messi, but that's not enough for Draper

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Greg Draper - the man with the golden boots
Champions League first qualifying round first leg: The New Saints v Feronikeli
Venue: Park Hall, Oswestry Date: Tuesday, 9 July Kick-off: 19:00 BST
Coverage: Live video and commentary on the BBC Sport Website and app

Greg Draper spent more time on the bench than on the pitch for Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints last season, but still won the Golden Boot.

Draper played just 1,032 minutes of his side's 2,880-minute WPL season and finished top scorer with 27 goals.

He scored a league goal on average every 38 minutes, a better strike rate than Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo and last season's Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah.

The 29-year-old striker acknowledges that the planet's best goal scorers are playing at a much higher level but Draper says that scoring goals is "one of the hardest things to do" whatever level you play.

While Messi et al will join the Champions League at the group stage, Draper's club The New Saints kick off their campaign on Tuesday in the first qualifying round at home to Feronikeli of Kosovo.

Greg Draper
Greg Draper in action for New Saints against Barry Town last season

The New Saints have qualified for the Champions League for the eighth season running after winning their eighth successive league title, and Draper wants to carry his domestic form into Europe.

"It's probably the one thing that I'm most disappointed about in my time here [at TNS] is my lack of European goals, so that's my main aim this year, to score some important goals in Europe and help the team progress," says Draper.

In his eight seasons at TNS, Draper has collected eight Welsh Premier League medals, won the Welsh Cup five times, the League Cup four times and has two Golden Boot awards but his and the club's prime focus is European competition.

"Europe is what we play all year for," says Draper.

"Obviously winning the league is nice, but we make sure that we win the league so that we can have these Champions League nights.

"That's what makes us come into training and work hard every day and every week - turn up on a Saturday and blow teams away."

Should TNS beat Feronikeli over two legs they will face Danish champions FC Copenhagen in the second qualifying round.

Greg Draper
Greg Draper playing for New Zealand in an Olympic qualifier against Fiji in 2012

Defeat by the Danes would see the Welsh champions move into the final stages of Europa League qualification.

"The chairman's ambition is to get into the group stages of the Europa League. I don't think that is a million miles away," Draper added.

"But a bit of luck with the draw and if everyone turns up on the night and we put in a performance that we know we are capable of then anything can happen," Draper says.

On top of his European football experience, Draper has one senior international cap for New Zealand and played in the 2007 Under-20 World Cup in Canada and the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he came up against Ronaldhino, an experience he describes as the highlight of his career.

Brazil beat New Zealand 4-1 and the then Barcelona striker scored two of the goals.

"He took the mickey out of us to be honest," Draper said.

"He did whatever he wanted against us when he had the ball… and to say that you're on the pitch with Ronaldinho and watching him do what he does is something that I'll never forget," said Draper.

Greg Draper's golden boots
Draper has won the Welsh Premier League Golden Boot for the past two seasons

As well as looking to score vital goals in Europe for his side, Draper also wants to win his third Golden Boot in a row in the Welsh Premier League for one specific reason.

"The first [Golden Boot] one came along and then obviously last year I managed to pick up my second in a row and both of the Golden Boots they gave me are for left feet for some reason. I don't know if they are trying to wind me up.

"If you ask any of the lads, I don't have a left foot - it's just for standing on - so I've asked next year if I can have one for my right foot!"

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