MARBELLA, Spain, February 3 (R-Sport) - Anzhi Makhachkala manager Guus Hiddink is at the forefront of a big-spending Russian revolution in European football. After signing Brazil winger Willian, he discusses Anzhi’s deep pockets and the team’s success at home and in Europe in an interview with R-Sport at the club's winter training camp.
- Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu has said he regrets that Willian preferred Anzhi to the English Premier League. Are you annoyed by all the talk that Anzhi is all about money, not football?
“I think we've proven this year that we've constructed the team, we've proven that we're aiming on football. The way we've played, the way we've performed. In the [Russian Premier League] table we're second, in Europe we're in the knockout stage [of the Europa League], we're still in the Russian Cup. That all means football is our priority. Of course we want to have young and promising players, we don't want all those stars from 30 to 40. When you go to England you also have big money and big salaries there. We don't pay attention to such talk.”
- But still the Russian league is far behind the best European leagues. How can Russian teams attract young and talented players from all over the world except by offering more money?
“Well, I think the football world is getting more and more open towards Russia. Also because the World Cup in 2018 will be held in Russia, more and more will come to attention. Russia is no more the second- or third-world football country. It is getting better and better, speaking of quality. Anzhi, like all the clubs in Russia, begins signing young and talented players, but also a lot of attention is paid to the local young boys.”
- You've been working in Russia, with some breaks, since 2006. Are the Russian league and the national team making progress?
“The Russian national team is in good position in qualifying for Brazil [2014 World Cup] with Portugal and other strong teams among them in their group. That’s a reflection of Russian football, it means that it’s improving. It’s not easy, it’s quite difficult to survive in the Russian league. What I compare to when I started here in 2006, the Russian league was weaker that time than it is now.”
- A lot of young players in Russia are very satisfied with their position and their salaries here, and they don't want to try themselves in the best European leagues.
“Yes, that’s one of the big concerns, because young players, indeed, like you say, they have big salaries, sometimes too much. That is always the case in football. But still players now, and in the past, look for adventures. If a player is in the club for four, five or six years from 16 or 17 years onward, I encourage him to find a way to make a new step, to get that experience, if he has the quality to do so. This is not always successful, but sometimes I encourage players after a period of time to make a move to find new adventures. In the past Russia had several players who played in Spain, and now they're working as coaches in the Russian league.”
- Does third place with Russia at Euro 2008 remain your brightest memory of working in Russia?
“Yes, that’s true.”
- Can the current Russian national team achieve the same sort of results as you did at Euro 2008?
“They have a really good side, they're improving. It's not easy, but they have very experienced coaches. It depends on a lot of circumstances.”
- Are you satisfied with [Anzhi’s] winter training camp in Marbella so far?
“Very much. We were a lot of times in the training camps. The attitude of the players is very professional. It's very nice to work with them, the attitude is perfect. The players know it is a good club, they have good salaries and that they have to deliver their performance. So far I have no complaints about that.”
Any thoughts on Anzhi’s upcoming clash with Hannover 96 in the Europa League?
“Yes, I was at their game last weekend against Wolfsburg, we saw them play against Schalke. Both games showed that they rather easily can make a goal, that they are strong at the front. Yes, they make mistakes in defense and concede goals like against Schalke, but they're a very competitive team, which they proved by making it to the Europa League playoffs.”