“It’s a very long story over how I got here,” said St Johnstone youngster Max Kucheriavyi as he reflected on his move to Highland League new boys Brechin City.
This is the tale of how a boy from Ukraine found himself at Glebe Park, via Hearts and St Johnstone.
The midfield playmaker was scouted was at a Kiev soccer school in the days that led up to that Real Madrid v Liverpool clash.
He was then offered training facilities at Hearts at the age of 16.
The journey from Kiev to Brechin
For two years, Kucheriavyi made the 2,500-mile round trip between his Kiev home and Edinburgh for regular training stints.
Every training session edged him closer to his promised Tynecastle deal, one he was supposed to pen as soon as international cross-border rules permitted.
But with Levein sacked as Hearts boss and left the Tynecastle club in May 2020 – just before Kucheriavyi turned 18.
The youngster was out in the cold until St Johnstone stepped in and handed him a three-year deal after he impressed in training.
Now, with his Scottish dream very much alive, Kucheriavyi is learning his trade on loan at Highland League side Brechin.
“We spotted Max in Kiev when I was out there with Kevin for the Champions League Final,” said Levein.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 14, 2021
“I went to a soccer school and he was one of those players that makes you step back and say ‘wow’.
“He was by far the smallest player there but he was a cut above the rest.
“His football brain has developed a lot faster than his physicality. Once that catches up, he’ll be some player.
“He’s already two or three levels up from where we are but because no-one knows him yet we’ve got him.
“He spent more than two years travelling from Ukraine to Scotland to train with Hearts.
“I’d spoken to him about a contract but couldn’t sign him because of FIFA regulations against cross-border transfers.
“Three months before his 18th birthday I left my job at Hearts.
“Robbie Neilson came in and, understandably, had other priorities. Covid kicked in and because no-one had seen Max playing we didn’t know what would be next.
“But I didn’t want to give up him. I didn’t want all his effort to be a waste of time.
“Thankfully St Johnstone took our word on him and gave him a chance.
“St Johnstone have a good record on developing young players and Callum Davidson has given Max a three-year deal.
“We are very lucky to have him at Brechin.
“Personally, I don’t think he’ll have any worries about going back to St Johnstone and making an impact.”
New country and culture has posed no issues for Kucheriavyi
Kucheriavyi, now 19, is relishing his opportunity at Brechin as he tries to force his way into contention at double-winners St Johnstone.
He has also had no problems adapting to the lifestyle in Scotland.
“I already knew English from school when I started coming over so that wasn’t an issue,” said Kuckeriavyi.
“The only issue was that people speak it differently in Scotland!
“I was fine after a few months. I was coming over for a few weeks at a time and going back to Ukraine.
“Then it became a month in Scotland and four days back home.
“It was nice to see my family but all I have ever wanted to do was play football so it was worth the effort.
“It’s good to be at Brechin. The St Johnstone manager told me to get the experience I need to get into the first team as soon as possible.”