Sergei Fursenko: "We want to create a team that will last for many years"
The Zenit President spoke to the St. Petersburg press about the season so far.
This isn't a surprise. The team is very young and it takes time for a group to play together. Also when young players are inexperienced it can be difficult to cope with the pressure. Now Zenit have started to play quite differently from the start of the championship when the opposition tried to attack us and play. Now most teams play defensively and just counterattack against us. Zenit have conceded the fewest goals in the championship, but the league standings are what they are.
On his relationship with Roberto Mancini
Roberto is a fan of Zenit, just like me and you, we understand each other. I think recently Roberto has had his most difficult period here, he maybe did not fully understand our Russian mentality, but this period has now passed. He now clearly understands how to go about things and how to use the best way possible to achieve this.
A coach can have his own opinions of course, but in any good team there are certain things that need to be followed and everyone owns his own behaviour. There are no difficulties or problems in my relationship with Roberto Mancini and we have a good relationship. What is acceptable, I encourage. What is impossible, I tell him directly.
I can't talk about any problems with Driussi, he's in good form. He hasn't scored? There are different steps in life and Driussi is only twenty years old, everything is ahead of him. Sebastian is on the list of fifty best young players in the world. Let's wait and see.
On Paredes and Noboa
Noboa and Paredes are very different players, in age and in conditioning. They were bought for different reasons. I really enjoy Paredes and I like Noboa too. They play in the same position but aren't in competition with each other.
For me, heroes come in all different walks of life. In football, the word "fan" implies that a person is in love with the players, with the team, with the action on the pitch. People who understand football and enjoy it, not only know how Sasha Kokorin scores goals but also know about his movement during the game, how he protects the ball with his body and how he can pass. Sometimes Kokorin does not score in a particular game, but he does a lot of work! In defence he helps out constantly. Watch him closely and see how professional and beautifully he plays, I really mean it Alexander plays football beautifully. The goals will come, I'm absolutely sure. He is already the league top scorer and I would like Kokorin to score twice as many, but some games I want him to shoot more, in some I want less. It seems to me that Kokorin is definitely the real Zenit hero, who our younger fans can look up to. Sasha is a very kind person who we respect and love!
Artem is a talented player and a charismatic figure. I would be very happy if he goes to the World Cup.
Kaplenko is a talented and promising player. He is only eighteen years old and he trains well. But it is extremely tough to achieve things through training alone, so the head coach has given him the chance to play in real competitive matches.
On the growth of the players
To support players such as Kokorin, Dzyuba, Paredes and Shatov is our duty. They are all members of the squad. What the results are is a different matter. I would not identify the different elements in Mancini's educational work, this process is not always easy and he is building a team. There is a lot of systematic work to do to understand the qualities of the players. It takes place daily on the pitch and in life, it never stops. It is important to see the potential in a player, and in a strong team with such a coach as Mancini, this potential will certainly be revealed. Kuzyaev's ability at the time of his arrival at Zenit has allowed him to progress very well indeed.
On upcoming transfers
The team is not just the 11 players on the pitch, but the 24 in the squad. We need different players, each with his own role and tasks. Those who can decide the outcome of a match are quite rare in our football. Kokorin I think is one such player, but I repeat, there are high points and there are quiet moments in football. We need more of those who can help in difficult situations. We are a team, not just a set of players. I already know who will leave Zenit in the winter.
On Konstantin Sarsania
We continue to mourn the untimely death of our sports director and his work goes on. Oreste Cinquini is a specialist in the role with great experience in European football, he is working very efficiently. Now we have invited Vyacheslav Malafeev to join us. After the end of his playing career he went successfully into business and in some part, he will continue Sarsania's work on the domestic front. The point here is not only the transfer policy of the first team but also to work on helping Zenit-2 and the youth team. We have to work constantly, daily, hourly even, and deal with the issues from all divisions of our club.
About the Gazprom Academy
Now we are restructuring the Academy and within half a year it will start working at full capacity. We will be able to support about 300 pupils in the boarding school and an emphasis is being made both on the upbringing of those who live there and on the lessons for those local St. Petersburg children. We should remember that our Academy has seventeen branches with a total of 1,500 young players.
We are also implementing a project similar to the Sirius hockey project in Sochi. We plan to invite five or six teams from different regions to us on a permanent basis. At our training centre, in addition to competitive practice, work will be conducted on internships for young players and their coaches. The coaching staff of the Zenit first team are ready to help the players coming to the academy. We plan for the academy to be something like a centre for further-training. Not only coaches, but physiotherapists, masseurs and other parts of the coaching staff who will be able to improve their qualifications there. We plan to start the process after the World Cup.
On the club's development strategy
Our whole strategy today is to create a team that is of interest to the public and to have a club that is financially successful. These things are interrelated because modern football is inseparable from finance. We in Russia have a paradox, the players get a European salary but play with a Russian attitude. This disproportion needs to be eliminated and we are looking for ways to achieve this. Aiming to reach the right results means changing the attitude of the Russian players to being more professional. A player who receives a high salary must work for his money regardless of his mood and his life circumstances.
Our second goal is to create a team whose spine will last for many years. An example of this is the team created by Dick Advocaat. We must give priority to the young players. The third is to strengthen the brand of the club. The Zenit name is more valuable than anything else. Last year, we were in 16th place in terms of brand value among all the big European clubs and that's worth a lot. We must learn to make money with our brand.
To be able to maintain a high income we need good financial management and good fiscal planning. Recently have been at a breakeven level and we've made great efforts to earn revenue at our matches, through selling advertising and other commercial activities. As a result, the three main goals that I listed are being archived in order to build the strongest Russian club.
About the new stadium
Any supporter from St. Petersburg should be in the habit of going to Zenit. When we play at home everyone should be there supporting the team, and supporting us with their whole family! For this to happen we need to entertain the fans and also to feed them. At the Krestovsky the type of fan attending has changed significantly. About 40% of all spectators are now women and children. Matches are being attended by families and I've seen for myself lots of very young children at the stadium. At the last match with Ural we had about 6,000 children at the game. The campaign to get children with their parents to the stadium is a guarantee that the future generations of St. Petersburg fans will support Zenit. At the same time, we feel a great responsibility to our fans. Being at the stadium for four or five hours, especially for the children, means they need at least one meal and drink, as well as having fun.
We have other entertainments in this city, but football in St. Petersburg today takes a very special place. We need to install a feeling in the fans of all ages that "if something happens at the Krestovsky, then I need to be there," in many ways we have already succeeded in achieving our main task.
We have family sectors. There is a kids' room with professional children's entertainers, at the moment this is only in the VIP area, but in the future we want to make another children's room at the stadium for our mass audience, a place where you can put a child if it is difficult for them to sit for the whole match. We try to respond quickly to the requests of our fans. Clearly, they want us to win, but they also want a quality product in all areas. The St. Petersburg fan is very sophisticated and well-versed in football. People see that we are trying very hard to support the team on the pitch. There are no fans like those from St. Petersburg!
On the World Cup
We will do everything we can to prepare the players for the World Cup. Our task, as part of our football community, is to help Russia do its best, this applies to infrastructure too. We are changing the pitch at the stadium now. We want the World Cup here to have the best grass in Russia. We are providing our training centre and our academy pitches for the use of the World Cup too.