After making his Spartak debut in 2018, young midfielder Mikhail Ignatov fell upon some hard times in his career. Now under Rui Vitoria, the 21 year old creator is enjoying a steady renaissance and has established himself in the main team. Before our match with Nizhny, we talked to him about a host of topics.
Q: You were in the starting lineup against Krylia, your first start since 2018. How did you feel before the game?
A: I was obviously excited but not the same as it was three years ago. The start of the match was difficult, we took control of the game but failed to implement our plans. We had a goal disallowed, hit the bar, it was tough. Krylia are a worthy opponent, they try to play a control based style of football.
Q: How have you managed to adapt to the RPL again?
A: I’m getting used to a different rhythm again, everything is faster in the RPL, there is less time to make decisions. I am sure that I will improve with every game.
Q: How much time did the full team get to prepare in pre-season? A lot of players joined late due to their international commitments?
A: There was really not much time, but we are now beginning to develop a level understanding with the coaching staff and among each other. I think that soon, this will become even stronger and we’ll add to our game. The first matches of the season are always full of struggle, everybody wants to start off well. I watched almost all the games from the first two rounds of the season, and am convinced of this.
Q: Last season you really revitalised yourself for Spartak-2, scoring 11 goals and were among the team’s leaders. How did you manage to do this?
A: I just matured and began to take everything more seriously. For the second team, I started learning the false nine role, and got used to it. It didn’t work for the first half of the season, I couldn’t score, let the team down and was angry with myself.
At the beginning of the year, I hired personal trainers, began additional work on the physical aspects of the game. As a result, I broke through. In the spring, I played well. Now after returning to the main team, I devote even more time to training, proper nutrition and effective training.
Q: After a bright debut three years ago, you disappeared for a bit. What happened?
A: When Kononov came, I stopped getting match practice and rarely even came out as a substitute. Although in training he praised me, I never got a chance and wasn’t allowed to play for the second team either. It was mentally difficult.
Q: Some say that you weren’t physical enough at that point. Do you agree?
A: I don’t think so. Of course withstanding the loads in senior training is tough, but 17-18 year olds play often in Europe and are among the main players in their team. I think I was ready too, but I just didn’t fit Kononov’s vision. The injuries that followed were aso tough.
Q: What are your memories of playing in European competition?
A: The atmosphere in Glasgow! Big stadium, lots of fans. The stands at Ibrox are quite close to the pitch, British style and it was very noisy. Then it was still drizzling, the abll was moving quickly, it was a pleasure to play.
Q: You have played in a variety of positions recently. What is the one you like the most?
A: The philosophy of the current coach suits me; controlling the ball, playing with short and medium passes, playing out the back. These things are taught to me at the academy and I am familiar with them. Where Vitoria uses me right now, in the 10 role is my favourite. I don’t mind helping the defence, but I like this position more.
Q: One of your major strengths is your ability to dribble. Does Vitoria encourage this?
A: Yes, but I keep learning from my mistakes, it’s better not to hog the ball in the centre of the pitch. I’ve also learnt not to do the Zidane feint again. (note- Ignatov once rouletted Zidane when the latter came to Russia for a charity match)
Q: How do you find new tricks to implement?
A: If I see a cool trick on Instagram or TikTok, then I practice it individually and then in training. If everything works out, I use the trick in game.
Q: Who else is a great dribbler in the team?
A: There are many options! Jordan, Promes, Moses, Bakaev, Mirzov. Even Zobnin is a great dribbler, he blocks the ball with his body and comfortably roulettes the opponent.
Q: Promes left Spartak around the time you made your debut, and came back when you began to reestablish yourself. What changes have you seen in his game since he came back?
A: He’s become even more experienced now after playing in Sevilla and Ajax. Now he’s a bit more selfless, this is the main difference.
Q: How much football do you watch?
A: I try to watch as much as I can. In addition to the RPL, I watch the Premier League. I don’t root for anybody, I just try to watch good football and learn new things for myself. I also used to watch the La Liga because of the battle between Messi and Ronaldo?
Q: You said before that you liked visiting exhibitions and art galleries. What do you do in your free time now?
A: I still love it, I just don’t post my visits on social media anymore. Three years ago I mortgaged an apartment, I wanted to have my own home. The house is being renovated now and it’s very time consuming. My father suggests many technical things, my interest in art helps me decorate the apartment in a modern way.