– Massimiliano Allegri received the ‘Golden Bench’ prize as the best coach of Serie A of the previous season. Have you received it because Spartak won the Russian Championship?
– That is right. Last season five Italian coaches won the national titles of foreign countries: Carlo Ancelotti in Germany, Antonio Conte in England, Marco Rossi in Hungary, Roberto Bordin in Moldova and I in Russia. Ancelotti and Conte were not present, and we three received our ‘Golden Benches’. It is not my personal prize. I wouldn’t have achieved this success without my team. This award also belongs to the coaching staff.
– As far as I understand, this Monday many Italian coaches came to Florence. Were you able to talk to someone like Mancini, Spalletti?
– There were many colleagues and acquaintances indeed. I only had a brief conversation with Roberto and Luciano.
– Will you tell us anything interesting about this meeting?
– You know, when so many people gather for only several hours, nobody has long conversations. We just exchanged some phrases, it was nothing special. I could see that Luciano remembers the years he spent in St. Petersburg with warmth and respect.
– You visited the heart of Italian football community, since this event was organized by your football federation. Of course, there must have been some talks about the new head coach of the national team of Italy. How real is the opportunity of Roberto Mancini to join the team?
– People keep saying the same names for a while, Mancini is among them. There are also Ancelotti, Conte, Ranieri and Di Biagio who was leading the national team during its friendly matches. The rumors mentioned these names again. Many people think that Roberto is a candidate with high priority, but I haven’t heard anything else.
– Haven’t you discussed it with him?
– Who do you think is the real candidate?
– To tell you the truth — I don’t know. All the mentioned coaches have valid contracts with clubs, even Ancelotti has one. Roberto has a contract with Zenit. The Italian mass media wrote that the new head coach of the national team will not be announced earlier than during the last ten days of May, when all the national championships will end. Let’s see what the future brings us.
– Didn’t you take your ‘Golden Bench’ to Moscow with you?
– No, I left it at home, in Bergamo.
– Let’s discuss Russian football. What do you think about Spartak’s condition after the March break?
– We’ll see the full picture closer to the match against Tosno, when all the players return from their national teams: then we’ll see who has what condition. For now I’m happy to say that Timofeev, Bocchetti, Ze Luis and Tasci were able to return to the common group, and Tigiev started recovering.
– How serious was Zobnin’s injury?
– I want to believe that there were no bad consequences. We will learn more today or tomorrow. There is a chance that Zobnin will return in time to participate in the next few games, but let’s not make any guesses. Unfortunately, Dzhano will be absent for a long time. We wish him to recover as soon as possible and we wish Dzhikiya the same.
– If we study the schedule of the remaining rounds, it seems that Spartak has a really good calendar that can allow successfully finishing the championship. What can you say about this?
– We are not allowed to think like that! When we relax and start thinking that we are favorites, we immediately start paying for it. Our goal is to try to achieve victory in every game starting with the match against Tosno. Then we will have a Cup game with Krylia Sovetov and so on. We don’t have time to think about the schedule, because we need to play!
– The championship will continue with a round that includes a game that has brought many rumors. What do you think about the situation with Amkar’s game against Lokomotiv?
– To tell you the truth, I never had such situations in Italy. There were cases when the games were played on neutral fields, but seeing one team that has its own stadium going to play a ‘home’ match on the arena of their opponents is really something unimaginable. At once I didn’t even believe that this could happen. Then they told me that the regulations of the Russian championship allow such situation. I think that this decision is absurd, but what can I say if it goes along with the regulations?!
– So do you blame the regulations?
– Of course the coaches can’t be blamed, and my colleague Yuri Semin, whom I deeply respect, has the full right to see his team in the lead. Such things are decided by the management of the clubs and the top authorities of the league. It’s strange that they allowed it, especially now, during the final phase of the championship: several teams are fighting for medals in the top part of the tournament table, and other teams fighting for the right to remain in the table in its lower part. I repeat: Lokomotiv completely deserves being on the first place, they are really close to the title, but other teams, including Spartak, haven’t given up yet. I think that transferring this game from Perm to Moscow does not make this race for the title look good.
– How real is to restore the position after such a solid handicap during such a short period of time?
– You won’t know it until you try. Spartak is going to have an interesting final stage that will be full with events. We would like to make ourselves and our fans happy with the best result possible. We need to play the remaining games in a way not to make ourselves ashamed, and then…
– Then we will get what we deserved: both in the championship and in the Russian Cup. I’d like to finish this season with dignity and to start playing in Europe again. Of course, my best hopes are for the Champions League.
– Do you know where and when Spartak will start preparing for the next season?
– The preparation will start in Moscow during the World Cup. Then we will probably go to Austria. After that there will not be much time until the first round of the new championship in the end of July.
– Are you planning to visit personally the games of the World Cup?
– It’d love to, yes! But it’s hard to make any plans yet.
– You have already said that in the absence of Italian team you will root for the national team of Russia. What do you think about the team’s current perspectives?
– The head coach of the national team Stanislav Cherchesov is in a tough situation because of these many injuries. I wish him to overcome these difficulties and I wish the players to show not even 100, but 200 percent of what they got. They should work extremely hard to not be able to blame themselves. I won’t make any guesses. The main thing for this World Cup in Russia is to become a celebration for everyone. I have no doubts that it will be held on the highest possible level.