Alexander Dyukov: “The Champions League is our common goal”

Zenit`s president Alexander Dyukov gave an interview to ProSport magazine, excerpts from which we have included below.

On emotions

— Zenit did it all this year. What was the brightest moment in the year for you?
— I remember an episode from our pre-season training in Austria. Zenit`s head coach Luciano Spalletti rolled up the rugs behind the whole team during warm-ups.

— After the last match Spalletti charmed even neutral viewers by taking his shirt off in -15 weather and running around the stadium to celebrate with the fans. Could you do that?
— To be honest, I saw Luciano`s naked torso only on video. At that moment, when he took his shirt off, I was on my way out onto the field, and I missed that moment. Ya, it was really cold out, and the wind was very strong. But he promised to do that, and he kept his word. I promised to learn Italian if we win the league. Being a man of my word, I`m going to try and learn at least 1,000 Italian words as soon as possible.

— The deciding match against Rostov ended, and the celebrations moved from the stadium to the streets of St. Petersburg, and the news reports quoted Alexey Miller as saying "Let`s go mix in with the fans on Nevsky." What were the celebrations of top-managers of large companies with common fans like?
— They were no different than the celebrations of all other people on the streets of St. Petersburg that day. That was the idea of Alexey Borisovich. We drove to Nevsky Prospect, got out of the car, and let`s say, in an organized group moved towards the Moscow Train Station, talking with other fans on our way.

— How will Zenit act this winter, when the top European clubs go after Spalletti? For example, Inter is about to fire Rafa Benitez.
— Why do you think that Benitez will be fired? He`s a very strong coach, but he needs time to show his talent. And Luciano already said that he doesn`t plan to leave Zenit.

On the club budget

— How do you react when you hear that Zenit has no budget limits?
— I don`t know a single company, not a single club with an unlimited budget.

— CSKA announces its budget each spring. Are you ready to do the same with them?
— It`s logical when all clubs do that. As for conclusions that one can make based on the budgets of Russian clubs — are they too big or too small — I can say this: if we have the task of making a strong league and playing well in European tournaments, then Russian clubs definitely don`t have large enough budgets to achieve these goals. Only with yearly budgets of €120-150 mln will it be possible to achieve systematic, regular success, rather than coincidental, episodic success.

As for Zenit, we increase our income year after year. Next year we plan to earn $60 mln of our own money, not counting income from transfers, sponsorship from Gazprom money, and prize money from UEFA. As you understand, the advertising-sponsorship space we give to Gazprom is our main space. If we used these possibilities to attract other sponsors and taking into account UEFA prize money, then we`d have a 2011 budget of more than $100 mln. This is a large sum, but still not enough.

On the fans

— How often do you have to hear criticism that Zenit uses government resources?
— What do you mean by government resources?

— I mean that the team is supported by those who manage Russian football, and even the Russian state as a whole.
— And what does that lead to?

— For example, not everybody understood why the ethics committee of the Russian Premier League took so long to make a judgment on the incident in the match with Spartak, and allowed Denisov to play in two more deciding matches and only after that be disqualified for four games.
— Where do you see government resources here? If we had such support, then Denisov`s case wouldn`t have been reviewed at all, or it would have ended in a small fine. But this wasn`t the first time that emotions were shown on the field and off it. There were other conflict situations with the participation of head coaches on premier league teams. Did those cases cause less detriment to the reputation of Russian football? However those cases weren`t reviewed by the ethics committee at all. But the conflict between Karpin and Denisov was. And the decision taken was clearly not in Zenit`s favor. But we look at it this way: there was a conflict, and Denisov didn`t behave as he should have. But in my opinion disqualifying him for four matches is too much. Igor was very emotional, but football is an emotional sport. It would be a lot worse if 22 unemotional footballers went onto the field. It comes out that Denisov was disqualified for four matches just because he kicked away the ball!

— There`s a legend that Alexey Miller regularly reads Zenit`s guest book and even writes in it. And you?
— I go there sometimes too. I check out the comments that other fans write. I try to find criticism that will help us improve our work. For example, thanks to the guest book we significantly improved access to the stadium and the services we offer there.

On new opportunities

— Construction of a new stadium for Zenit is continuing on Krestovsky Island. When will the team play its first match there?
— The city is doing the construction. The city vice-governor said that Zenit will play in its new stadium in 2012. He didn`t say when exactly. But the general contractor for the stadium says that the deadline is the end of 2011 — beginning of 2012.

— After winning the Russian league and the UEFA Cup, Zenit`s fans now want the team to win the Champions League. When will Zenit be given the task of winning this tournament?
— Presently this is more of a dream. We have more realistic goals. First we need to make the right foundation, the right base. If Zenit becomes one of the 8 or 9 best teams in Europe in the coming years, and its revenue reaches 150 mln euros per year, then the hopes of winning the Champions League will be more realistic.