– When we came back from vacation I found the team to be in great harmony. The guys were ready to work very hard after their vacation, – began Luciano Spalletti. – The players are completely ready, and they want to write a new chapter in the history of Zenit.
– What has to happen at pre-season practice in order for you to consider the pre-season successful?
– We need to give the players those qualities that will help them compete at the same level as teams who are at the peak of their national league seasons. These are standard qualities: power, endurance, and speed. That`s what we work on at our practices.
– The players really liked the introduction of tennis ball at this pre-season. Who was the author of the idea?
– Most of all tennis ball is a good training exercise. When you play on a short field in the two-on-two format, you always train your technique very well because you get the ball constantly. You have to play very precisely. At the same time these exercises serve as a sort of buffer, a break between those physical exercises that I already talked about. In order to work on the players` technical qualities we first need the players to have more contact with the ball, and when we can do so in a playful drill where the players fight for a result, for victory… that`s really good. It becomes a form of entertainment for the players, but at the same time it improves their technical skills.
– It seems like the only thing that can ruin your mood right now is the Dubai weather.
– No, we don`t have any problems with that. We`re working really well, and we`ve got the right number of players, just the right amount for ideal work together. The number of players allows us to work effectively and successfully. And the guys want to work hard, which helps us a lot.
– How important is the atmosphere at this pre-season to the players? There are peacocks walking around the streets here, and sometimes the head coach talks with them.
– We have a very strong and serious club, which thanks to its power can choose where it wants to spend pre-season practice. And the fact that the club chose this place, with this atmosphere, obviously helps us to work more effectively. As for conversations with peacocks, I take responsibility for talking to them, but if you want I can give that responsibility to you (smiles).
– Is it more important to get the team ready psychologically already now, or, on the contrary, to pay attention to the team`s physical conditioning in January, and then move on to the psychological aspect later?
– Everything is important. It`s important to get the team to such a state where it is capable of playing and competing with strong, serious opponents. So that includes physical training, and psychological readiness, and the team mentality, and their willingness to work. Everything together should be brought up to the highest possible level.
– How important is the MatchWorldCup and the team`s play in it? Or is it just a series of friendly matches to practice implementing new ideas on the field?
– We have to start incorporating the work which we do at practice into our matches. And if we manage to win the tournament at the same time, then great, that will give us additional motivation, additional enthusiasm to our players, which is very important. But most of all we need to take the attitude we have in practice and implement it on the playing field.
– The matches from this tournament are being shown all around the world on tv, including in St. Petersburg. How important is it to keep the focus you have at your tactical practices and to make it work in such games?
– I think it`s possible to win playing good, beautiful football. In order to do that we need to have the right attitude and mentality. And we shouldn`t hope to win based on some lucky episode – we should win beautifully.
– Mircea Lucescu, the head coach of Shakhtar, noted Zenit`s great potential this year. What`s your evaluation?
– We kept the same side as last year, so we should have the same goals this year as we did last year. We played an incredible season, won the Cup, and the League. And in terms of statistics we completely fulfilled our potential. As for my colleague`s words, he probably saw our team now, in its current stage of preparation for the season. But we`re going to set our goals based on last year`s results.