— What does the word "tolerance" mean to you?
— Tolerance for me is most of all the ability to understand and accept differences. Furthermore, being tolerant means that you fight against any kind of stupidity.
— Zenit and the Foreign Relations Committee of the St. Petersburg city government have a memorandum of cooperation in the sphere of combating xenophobia and racism, and promoting tolerance in the St. Petersburg community. How, in your opinion, can Zenit support the efforts of the city authorities at harmonizing inter-ethnic relations?
— The club will support such initiatives and use every opportunity to contribute to this work. I can personally assure you that I will do everything I can to help those who seek to explain to people what tolerance is, and the need to respect other cultures and traditions. I think that Zenit has proven through its work that the club understands what tolerance is, and what it means to have tolerant behavior. The team has gathered players from different countries and ethnic groups who work together to achieve a common goal, and work well. Their combined efforts bring tangible results. We`ve all worked together to achieve important results.
— Football fans do not always behave tolerantly during matches and often make politically incorrect statements. Can the club do anything about this behavior?
— I`d like to point out that not ALL fans do this. Only some of them, and they`re from a very small circle. I am sure that we will prevail, including with the help of the rest of the fans, whose number far exceeds the number of those with unsatisfactory behavior.
— St. Petersburg actively attracts immigrants. People come to work here from many different countries. Among the residents of Russia, St. Petersburg is considered one of the most welcoming and tolerant cities in the country. Have you felt this yourself? Is there something special about our city, and is it comfortable for you living here?
— I`ve felt the openness and readiness of the people here to accept my experience and my way of work from my very first day here. The fact that people have taken me for who I am here has helped me to achieve results. If you say and do the right and fair thing, then St. Petersburg will gladly take you. The city is open to new people, and is ready to accept new experience. At the same time we should not forget that St. Petersburg is a city rich in history and tradition, and is ready to defend these traditions in every way.
— If you invited your friends to visit St. Petersburg, what would you use an argument to convince them to come?
— I`ve said repeatedly, and I`m ready to repeat once again: there is an amazing difference between the four seasons here. In St. Petersburg you can really see what a real winter is, and how a beautiful summer is. The city dresses itself in different clothes, wonderfully changing its appearance. And of course we should note the interesting history of the city, the history of the Tsar`s family, and everything connected to it. The city architecture deserves attention, with its beautiful palaces. And the waterways and landscape of St. Petersburg are striking. The city center, with its geometry, strict lines, and abundance of monuments is just fascinating. The excellent illumination of the city center, the most beautiful part of the city, is also fantastic. I would also note the cleanliness and safety of the city, including at night.
— Many people believe that the past year was one of the most difficult during your time managing the team. Do you agree?
— It`s true that we`ve faced a number of difficulties this year. However, before making final conclusions, we must wait until the end of the season. I`m optimistic about the future.
— Who did you find to be a tough opponent this year, both in the Russian league and in the Champions League?
— We played quite a few organized, strong teams this autumn that showed spectacular, beautiful football. As for names, I would point to Spartak, CSKA, and Anzhi in the Russian Premier League. Many clubs have become significantly stronger in recent years, and the level of Russian football is improving in general. The work being done here is bearing fruit. Europeans are taking note of that too.
— Zenit`s Champions League campaign was not a happy one this year. That was obvious on the faces of the players who left the field after the final match vs. A.C. Milan. One got the impression that the players weren`t happy with the victory. How interesting is the Europa League for Zenit?
— Indeed, the fact that we didn`t make it out of our Champions League group was a big disappointment for all of us. But these things happen in football, especially when you meet such strong opponents like the ones that happen to play against Zenit. However, we are more upset by the fact that we weren`t able to show our best and play at the peak of our abilities. We played below the level that we`re able to demonstrate. Nevertheless, we deserve the place that we earned in the Europa League, and I think we need to approach this tournament fully prepared. We have enough motivation and fighting spirit to right the wrongs and show what we can do.
— You mentioned that Zenit earned its place in the Europa League, but there are other opinions on this point too – recently Tottenham Hotspur coach Andre Villas-Boas said he considers it unfair that clubs from the Champions League get the chance to continue to play in the Europa League, and there`s no reason to give them such a bonus.
— I follow the existing rules, which were set by competent people who, in my opinion, understand better than all of us how European tournaments need to be organized.
— Are there any teams that you would particularly like to meet in this tournament? The next stage will have English, German, and Italian clubs. Would you like, for example, to go back to San Siro and play the second Milanese team: Inter?
— I basically like football, and I like to work in football. I don`t think you have to choose your rivals: we will treat any opponent with great respect, no matter whom we get in the draw.
— After playing vs. Milan, all the Italian sports news channels began their reports with the words "Grande Spalletti." It looked like your countrymen were proud of you and glad to see your success. What does this recognition at home mean for you?
— Of course it`s nice when your achievements are recognized in your home country. When I go to Italy and I see the support of the fans, who are always warm to me, it`s really nice, and gives me additional impetus for further work. But I understand that this recognition is a consequence of how my team plays, and what the club I coach achieves. Italy is a country with a great football tradition, which has won the World Cup multiple times. The Italian public is very demanding, and my countrymen are very versed in football, so they feel the game well and understand it. Therefore, a high evaluation of my work from them makes me very pleased.
— The Internet has been full of stories lately saying that you will take over as head coach of A.C. Milan. Will you make the Red-Blacks happy, or stay with the blue-white-sky blues?
— I prefer to do, not to speak. The fans will see everything based on my actions. I`ve been doing my work consistently in Zenit, and I have a contract with the club for a rather long time, and I`m going to continue to work with the same dedication.