Secrets of Spalletti's coaching staff

They met together for the first time in January of this year. Ten months later, with Luciano Spalletti at the helm, they led Zenit to both the Russian Cup and the Russian Premier League title. "Our Zenit" newspaper asked Zenit's coaching staff to answer questions from our survey.

What did you feel when Zenit officially won the Russian championship this year?
Marco DOMENICHINI: – It was a great feeling, because for lots of us this is our first experience at working abroad.
Igor SIMUTENKOV: – It’s pretty hard to explain this feeling in words.
Daniele BALDINI: – Great happiness, and also real relief.
Alberto BARTALI: – In Italian there’s a word that can be translated as “complete pleasure”.
Mikhail BIRYUKOV: – It’s really hard to describe these feelings in words. Because to be honest I wasn’t expecting that everything would be decided on that day.
Nikolai VOROBYOV: – Of course it’s a feeling of total happiness. And to be honest, I feel a lot of relief, because there was definitely a lot of weight on our shoulders, and we could feel the nervous energy. But after we won the championship everything calmed down inside.

What does this title mean to you?
DOMENICHINI: – I can put this one in my list of achievements. All the more because we won the championship in a country where football means so much. After all, for Russia football is an inherent and very important part of life.
SIMUTENKOV: – It means that we worked together as one all year, and that we did everything right.
BALDINI: – It proves that we made the right choice when we decided to come work for Zenit. Because we were hoping to achieve success already then.
BARTALI: – For me this is a very important milestone in my professional career. And also because Zenit won not only the Russian Championship, but the Russian Cup as well. It’s also the result of the fact that I worked with an excellent coach all season, in a large team with excellent colleagues. And all that in this beautiful city of St. Petersburg, where there’s a club with enormous potential.
BIRYUKOV: – You can’t explain everything so fast... But when these things happen, you understand that you didn’t live your life for nothing.
VOROBYOV: – Those kinds of things are always the result of lots and lots of work. And when the result is like this, you understand that we did everything right. And that can only bring satisfaction.

When did you understand that Zenit would become champion?
– The match with Rostov, which brought us the championship, obviously made us very happy, including because of the fact that we honestly didn't expect that we would “mathematically” become champions on that day. But at the same time I have to say that the team proved all year long that it deserved first place. The team played confidently all year.
SIMUTENKOV: – The team played its own way for the whole season and deserved this title.
BALDINI: – At the first practice in the United Arab Emirates.
BARTALI: – I got the first serious notion that we could win the championship when we beat Rubin at home in the last round of the first half of the season, and Kerzhakov started to score goals pretty regularly.
BIRYUKOV: – It became clear already during the season that Zenit is the strongest team in the league. Maybe not from the very start, but by the end for sure. But I have t admit I had the jitters all the same. I’m a superstitious person in this sense, so I tried not to think about us winning the championship. I think you can only talk about winning the league once it becomes fact.
VOROBYOV: – If you’re asking about the match with Rostov, I knew we would be champions after Semak scored the second goal. If you’re talking in more general terms, I can say that miracles don’t happen often in life. They happen a little more often in football though.

What did you consider to be your main responsibility over the course of the season?
DOMENICHINI: – As you know, my main function is to be the head coach's assistant. That means that I have to be useful to him.
SIMUTENKOV: – To be useful to the team that I work for.
BALDINI: – My task was to complete the work done by the coaching staff. Each one of us tried to organize our work as well as possible. But the most important thing was to help Luciano Spalletti in everything he does.
BARTALI: – I’m really proud that I work in the coaching staff. And first of all it was important to me to make a good impression of myself as a person. And it’s an especially good feeling knowing that I worked with my Italian colleagues for the first time. I hope that I satisfied their expectations. And most of all the expectations of the head coach, Luciano Spalletti.
BIRYUKOV: – To do everything to make this a real team. And of course, each person made their own contribution to the work of the head coach.
VOROBYOV: – Like for any assistant to a head coach, my responsibility was to do everything to help Luciano Spalletti to turn his ideas into life, to make it more comfortable for him to work, and to make my work helpful to the team. But in general, it’s really nice to work in a team like ours.