EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Roman Pavlyuchenko – “I rejected Tottenham twice before I joined them”

Photo by: By photoplanet.am/Shutterstock

Russian Football News recently had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with former Spartak Moscow, Tottenham Hotspur and Russian international striker Roman Pavlyuchenko. The veteran striker discussed subjects ranging from the RFPL title race, Spartak’s recent form, and his experiences in England with Tottenham.

THE CHASE IS STILL ON

Lokomotiv just drew 0-0 with Ufa. Have the last rounds of the RFPL suddenly become a more exciting prospect?

Yes. You see how easily it can happen? This is football. Someone makes mistakes, someone else capitalises. If Lokomotiv want to win the league, they should be beating Ufa. They also drew with Akhmat in the previous round, and their remaining games are very difficult: Krasnodar, Zenit and Arsenal Tula. The last rounds have become much more interesting. The team with superior willpower will win. I’ve been saying recently that Lokomotiv will surely not lose the title race, but now, of course, they have made things more difficult for themselves.

Sergey Semak has made a good team in Ufa, by the way. Quite combative, with a well-organised defence.

Does this situation remind you a bit of in 2005, when Spartak chased Lokomotiv for second place?

Yes, it’s similar in a way.

An obvious question for you; how do you think Spartak will play tomorrow??[The interview was conducted on the evening of Sunday 22nd April.]

Spartak have surely watched today’s games and will understand that they still have a chance. If Spartak really want to remain in the title race and not let CSKA overtake them, they have to win tomorrow. However, you’ve seen how Spartak played in their last games: eliminated from the Cup, among other things, so they may be somewhat dejected. On paper, Spartak have to get the home win, obviously. But football is full of surprises. Nowadays, everyone can play, everyone attacks, everyone has learned to defend, so it’s hard against anyone. I can’t say with 100% certainty that Spartak will defeat Akhmat.

Spartak still led 1-0 against Tosno when you left. Were you surprised with the result?

Yes, I left the stadium around the 80th minute, and soon got a message that Spartak conceded. Then there were penalties. Spartak had their chances, but failed to convert them. I also noticed that they weren’t trying to shoot from 16-18 yards or just outside the box. They wanted to pass the ball around the penalty arena and took very few long shots.

Promes usually takes a lot of long shots for Spartak, but he didn’t this time.

You know, in the first half, Spartak looked very confident and controlled the game fully. Tosno had some half-chances, but Spartak had the advantage. However, the game got to penalties, and penalties are a lottery. A matter of who’s luckier.

NO TALKS OF RETIREMENT YET

Are you retired, or still planning to play somewhere in the future?

It’s hard to say. I haven’t officially announced my retirement. To be honest, I’d like to play at least one more year at a good level. The strength is still there, I can easily last one more season. The question is – where, in which country, in which city. There are some offers, but it’s mostly from first divison clubs, which isn’t too appealing for me.

So, you still want to play at Russian Premier League level?

I think I can still play at that level, even though I’m 36. I look at many players in our league, and I beleive that I’d be far from the worst player in the league.

Look at Fárfan, for instance. He turns 34 this year, and plays so well.

Fárfan is having a fantastic season. I think he’s one of the league’s best players this season. Scores many goals, including winning goals, won many points for Lokomotiv, great individual skill. A good player.

What if, say, Spartak-2 approach you? Would you accept an offer?

To be honest – I would. I said that FNL isn’t a priority, but I won’t refuse an offer from Spartak-2.

You’re not a stranger to the team…

Yes, and there’s also another important thing: it’s a Moscow-based team. I don’t want to leave Moscow that much.

And that’s why you joined Ararat Moscow at the start of the season?

Yes, that’s why I signed for Ararat. If Ararat was in, say, St. Petersburg or some other town, I wouldn’t have signed for them. It was important to me that the team was Moscow-based.

When you become a manager, would you also prefer working in Moscow?

That is a very different situation. There’s not much choice. But I’ll have to study for a few years before becoming a manger. I won’t look that far ahead now.

Roman Pavlyuchenko after signing with Ararat. Photo: FC Ararat

TOTTENHAM IS STILL VERY DEAR TO ME

Some questions specifically for our English-speaking audience. Do you still follow Tottenham?

Yes, I do. Watched the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United yesterday. This club is also very dear to me, I had some very good years there. We played at a good level, we got relatively far in the Champions League. Tottenham and English football in general is something else. I played football on a whole different level. So, naturally, I still follow Tottenham. Yesterday, they began well, but then…

Tottenham aren’t too lucky in general.

In the middle of the season, the team played very well, but the last part of the season hasn’t been that good. It’s hard to say why it’s happening if you don’t know what’s going on in the dressing room, but Tottenham don’t look as fresh as they were in the beginning or in the middle of the season. Perhaps they’re tired? I don’t know. They certainly don’t move around as easily as before. Harry Kane stopped scoring, and their football on the whole has suffered.

If you were 26 today, would you fit into the current Tottenham squad?

I don’t know. But I do know one thing for sure: if I were 26 today, and Tottenham approached me, I would’ve immediately agreed. I wouldn’t refuse the offer several times like before.

Did the talks take long when you signed for them?

I rejected Tottenham twice, but after their third offer I agreed to join them. I didn’t want to leave, I was happy at Spartak, so I refused. But if I were 26 today, I would’ve accepted the first offer without even thinking about it.

The English Premier League is stronger now than 10 years ago?

It’s hard to say. Though probably yes. Time goes on, football is progressing: the thinking speed, the overall speed…

Photo: James Boyes

THE MORE YOU PLAY, THE BETTER

Does Spartak’s current season remind you of 2006, in a way? Back then, they also led games frequently, but failed to get wins. Could it be that they are lacking stamina somewhat? In 2005, they mostly played one game a week, but there were 50 games in the 2006 season.

In England, they sometimes play three games a week. There can be a game one day and another game two days later. But I’ve never heard complaints from players about being tired. I think any footballer wants to play much more than he wants to train. So I think that it’s maybe a bit stupid to say that it’s worse for the players to play in the Champions League, or the Europa League, or whatever, in addition to the league. It’s great to be playing all the time.

Maksym Kalynychenko shared this sentiment. “When you’re playing and winning, the more you play, the better.”

Of course. A normal weekly cycle is: you play on Saturday, then you play on next Saturday, and between the games all you do is train. Honestly, it’s very boring. But when you play in the league on Saturday, then there’s cup in midweek, or the Champions League, you get into the playing cycle, and it becomes easy! You play constantly: recovery – game, recovery – game. This is exhilarating. I once talked to Vidic when he was at Man United, he said that they were playing up to 60 games a season if they reached the Champions League final. And they feel fine! There was never any complaints about being tired.

However, some players can be unaccustomed to that. Those who play around 30 games a season…

Like Spartak? They hadn’t played more than 35 games a year for a long time.

Perhaps, some groups of players can get tired. I don’t know. Maybe it’s true to an extent. Why do teams concede in the last minutes of games? It probably just happens that way. I don’t think the players themselves want to concede, nobody wants that. After all, the teams that score late goals – they prepare too, they want to earn points and win games. Everyone wants to earn points, nobody wants to battle for relegation. That’s why many goals are scored and conceded in the last few minutes of games.

Look at Arsenal Tula vs. Zenit today, for example. [The result was 3-3, Arsenal equalised in the 88th minute.]

Exactly. Arsenal equalised despite being down to 10 men. You see how it can happen in football? You would think they’d just defend, but they attacked and scored. Anything can happen. You can’t relax for a second – there’s always the danger of conceding a goal.

***

And now, some final predictions. Who will win the title?

I think Lokomotiv will be the champions. Yuri Semin will do everything to stay top of the league.

And the runners-up?

Spartak will finish second, and CSKA third.

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Author: Alexey ‘Spektrowski’ Zakharov

I’m a Spartak Moscow fan who dabbles in Soviet/Russian football history (mostly numerical and statistical). Contributed some data to the Spartak Moscow museum at Otkrytie Arena.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Spartak, la fiesta estaba cantada. A falta de cinco minutos, ganaban 1-0 y les esperaba la final. Roman Pavlyuchenko admitió que para entonces ya se había ido del estadio, con la sensación de partido resuelto. Encima el Lokomotiv iba empatando en casa contra […]

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