Ancelotti, Mourinho and other top coaches who have worked with Russian players
Carlo Ancelotti coached Yuriy Zhirkov and Igor Simutenkov
In the 2021/22 season, Carlo Ancelotti returned to coaching heaven after winning the Spanish league title and the Champions League with Real Madrid CF. A unique coach, there is good reason to call the Italian the most successful one in the 21st century, having won the Champions League four times and all five top-flight championships. In both cases, Papa Carlo is solely in possession of the all-time record.
Among the hundreds of players Ancelotti has coached, there are many top-flight stars, as well as a couple of Russians. Igor Simutenkov was discovered by the Italian at Reggian at the dawn of his coaching career. It was in Serie B, and Reggiana made it to the top flight thanks to the inexperienced Ancelotti and goals from Simutenkov (8 in 33 games).
15 years later, Carlo was already in a completely different status, after many triumphs with AC Milan, coaching Yuri Zhirkov at Chelsea. Under the Italian specialist Zhirkov won the APL, the FA Cup and the Super Cup, played fifty games (around 3000 game minutes) and even scored against Spartak in the Champions League. Ancelotti spoke positively about all Zhirkov’s qualities, except his vocal abilities:
Zhirkov is a legend with us. He has many talents, but they are outweighed by one serious flaw – he cannot sing. To join Chelsea, it’s not enough to sign a contract and be able to kick a ball. Every newcomer faces the toughest test: karaoke night, our sacred ritual. For Zhirkov, the hour of truth came when we were in Los Angeles. The guys persuaded him for days, and then he got up on a chair and sang. I’ll be honest, it was awful, I’d never heard anything like it before. He didn’t hit a single note, pieces of bread and fruit started flying at him. He kept singing anyway. It was like the squeal of a pig stuck in a fence or the howl of a drowning cat. The most interesting thing was that no one took pity on him, no one stopped him. The Czech even wanted to wear a helmet. I think Yuri still hasn’t recovered from that mental trauma.
Jose Mourinho coached Dmitriy Alenichev and Alexey Smertin
In May, Mourinho became the first coach to win the Champions League, the Europa League and the Conference League. It is worth recalling that in his first two big finals, a Russian player scored for his side: goals from Dmitry Alenichev helped them to victory over Celtic in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup final and Monaco in the 2003/04 Champions League final.
Mourinho has described Alenichev as “a very special player” and “one of the cleverest players he has ever met”. The Portuguese fielded Dmitry on 79 occasions, scoring 13 goals and 16 assists in those matches. After moving from Porto to Chelsea in 2004, Jose has been coaching another our compatriot – Alexey Smertin. Together they won the English Premier League and the League Cup in 2005.
And Denis Cheryshev has also played 60 minutes in the cup game for Real Madrid under Mourinho, but this episode pales against the background of the successful interaction between the Special One and Alenichev and Smertin.
Sir Alex Ferguson coached Andrei Kanchelskis
An important cog in Sir Alex Ferguson’s first successful Manchester United outfit was Russian midfielder Andrei Kanchelskis, who played predominantly on the right wing. Kanchelskis played 148 games for Manchester United, scoring 34 goals, and was involved in two league titles (1993 and 1994). Despite his scandalous departure from Manchester United, Kanchelskis and Ferguson maintained their relationship after the break-up (Sir Alex blamed the incident on the agent), and during his visits to England, Andrei invariably takes a couple of cans of caviar from Russia to treat the Scot.
Arsene Wenger coached Andriy Arshavin
Do you know which coach more often released Andrei Arshavin on the field? That’s right, Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman allowed Arshavin to play 144 games for London’s Arsenal, Andriy returned the favour with 31 goals and 46 assists. Vlastimil Petrzela is in the second place with 122 caps for Zenit, Dick Advocaat is in the third place with 80 caps. Now it is difficult to imagine that the Russian footballer played for one of the strongest teams in England and was on good terms with Wenger, who is happy with Arshavin’s career at Arsenal:
Russian pessimism is something painful. Journalists from Russia often ask me about Andrey Arshavin. And they always use the same wording: “What went wrong with him at Arsenal?” But why not, why do you think so? Arshavin has achieved a lot, he is one of those rare Russian footballers who really managed to prove themselves in the top championship. I mean, he joined Arsenal when he was in his early thirties, he had to adjust his game because of his age. But he is a great athlete.