25 january 2018

Andrei Kozlov — 12th goal this season, Championat.com interview

The top FNL goalscorer and his club Yenisey are the current leaders of the Russian First Division.
– On the last day of the transfer window, you turned down Orenburg, who were offering you a handsome pay and were ready to cover the breach of contact with your current club. All this for the top FNL goalscorer this season. Why did you refuse?

– I just couldn't leave. It was the last day of the transfer window. Our team had a clear objective, and we did everything we could to achieve it.

– Is it true that Orenburg lodged the bid directly to you, bypassing the club?

– I had a clause in my contract that allowed me to engage in negotiations and leave. I appreciate the interest that Orenburg showed in me. I know their manager Fedotov well, I used to work with him in Novokuznetsk. It was he who gave me a phone call. We talked and both saw each other's point.

– It makes for a good story: "A footballer who plays not only for money".

– It was harder to say no to a manager who you've known for five years. They offered me good terms, for the First Division at least. Better than in Krasnoyarsk. But in Yenisey I score goals, the team wins, and we have a chance of making it into the Russian Premier League.

– Andrey Tikhonov failed to bring Kransoyarsk to the Premier League. Do you think Dmitry Alenichev will succeed?

– We have to. I feel comfortable working with Alenichev. You can see that it is a person who has played and worked at the highest level. He understands even the subtlest aspects of the game and always gives good advice. Apart from achieving results, we are expected to show good football: playing one-two, making runs, taking unconventional decisions. The team spirit is excellent, pure poetry. I've played in many teams and I can assure you that such relationships as we have are extremely rare.

– What does Alenichev tell you personally after the matches? After all, you're constantly scoring goals.

– He warns me not become presumptuous. Says I can play even better.

– Due to Krasnoyarsk's remote location, Yenisey players spend a lot of time on board. What was the most difficult away game in your career so far?

– I played for Volga at the time. We arrived at the airport in Nizhny Novgorod at around 7 p.m., and at 1 a.m. we had a plane to Novosibirsk. There was a storm in Moscow, so the airport was closed. We only made it to the capital at 9 a.m. by another plane. We were late for the game, and it was delayed by two hours. We had to change our clothes inside the bus. We arrived 20 minutes before kick-off, quickly warmed up and started playing. We hadn't slept or eaten anything. We were ahead until the 60th minute, but eventually lost 3:4. Our strength just gave out – you can't cheat your body.

– How did you end up in Yenisey?

– I guess you know that famous story about FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod, which just ceased to exist one day. I was a Volga player at the time. I had a call from my friend Aleksadr Kharitonov. He has been playing in Krasnoyarsk for a long time. He suggested that I should go to Siberia and join Yenisey.

– Do Volga still owe you money?

– It's a sensitive issue. We don't understand why the city and its administration treat us this way. Now, the only hope is Vitaly Mutko. He seems to have the situation under control.

– How much exactly do they owe you?

– Season bonuses. For me, it's a significant sum. People say that we should earn money by doing our best out on the pitch. So we did. Yet nobody gave us the money.

– As far as I understand, this isn't the first time you find yourself in a situation like this.

– I had a similar story with FC Metallurg-Kuzbass in Kemerovo. I only had a short spell there. When I joined the team, I heard the players haven't been paid for six months. Not a single ruble.

– Then why did you join them?

– I wanted to play. It was a new challenge for me.

– Where did you have the most difficult time?

– In Nizhny Novgorod. I didn't have any money, not even enough to pay the rent.

– Is it true that when you were a child, your mother used to tell you that you can't make money playing football?

– She raised me and my brother on her own. She thought that you have to know people in football, and an ordinary boy from Bryansk can't make it to the football elite. At least now she can be proud of me.

– As far as I know, you are a Manchester United fan.

– Yes, my entire life. MU is the reason why I started playing football.

– In Ufa, you worked with Andrei Kanchelskis. He was your manager there and a former MU player.

– When I heard that he was going to be my manager, I didn't even think about the contract. For Kanchelskis, I would even go to the Amateur League. I was always curious to know how such a superstar would treat his players. He radiated confidence, both in himself and in his players. It was also his energy that drove us, gave us a reason to fight on the pitch: for him, for the club, for the city. He was an excellent motivator. When I first met him, I was very nervous. Eventually, I learned a lot from him.

– Is it hard to switch clubs so often? Your football geography is impressive.

– When I was on my own, it was easy: I would just pack my bags and leave. Now that I have a wife, there is a slight discomfort. However, there are also benefits to this type of career: I got to live in different cities and make a lot of friends, who I still hold dear.