All this month we’re looking back on Zenit’s first European trophy with the 2008 UEFA Cup win in Manchester. Zenit beat Glasgow Rangers 2-0 on 14 May 12 years ago and brought the gold back to St. Petersburg for the very first time. Radimov spoke at length to the Spanish press and these are some of the highlights from that article:
“It was a great honour for me to bring these two trophies back to St. Petersburg and I hope this success will soon be repeated, although that won’t be easy. You can compare that Zenit win in 2008 with Real Zaragoza’s own Cup Winners' Cup win 25 years ago.”
Radimov returned to Zenit in 2003 from Krylia Sovetov as slowly that legendary Zenit team began to be formed: “It was something like Guardiola did at Barcelona, half of the team were locals, all from St. Petersburg, born and raised here. They had spent a lot of time together and had their entire families up in the stands cheering the team on. We had top-quality players with a strong bond throughout the team, that helped a lot.”
The road to the final of the old UEFA Cup was a very long one. Dick Advocaat’s men played 15 matches throughout the tournament and those games are listed at the foot of the article.
“The closer to the final it got, the more pressure we felt, but I don’t remember any particularly match as the most nerve-wracking. We always played the same way and didn’t care who we were playing. Dick Advocaat was a great one for discipline, but we trained a lot with the ball and he made a lot of changes to the club. We’d switched to his 4-3-3 formation, to be a more attacking team and to apply more pressure on our opponents. Andrei Arshavin was another reason for our success, he was at his peak, 26 years old and almost unplayable. That season he came in sixth in the vote for Ballon d'Or, he went past people one on one, took on a whole team, he was a world-class player."
In addition to Arshavin, Anatoly Tymoshchuk shone after joining the blue-white-sky blues from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2007 “He came to us and became a key player. He did a huge amount of defensive work in midfield and was my partner as the engine room of the team alongside Zyryanov and Denisov. We didn’t need the manager to tell us to play one-twos or instruct us, it just all came naturally." Tymoshchuk earned himself a move Bayern Munich the following season, but did return to Zenit from the German club in 2013.
Leading the line was Pavel Pogrebnyak who ended the tournament as its top scorer alongside Luca Toni, both with 10 goals each. “Pavel was unlucky and missed the final through suspension, he also missed out on Euro 2008 because of injury. In his height and style of play he was similar to Pavlyuchenko, but, in my opinion, he was a little better."
The crowning glory of the whole campaign was the UEFA Super Cup win over Manchester United at the start of the following season, the 2-1 win came about thanks to the goals of Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny, with the Portuguese playmaker making his full debut for the UEFA Cup holders. Radimov came on as a sub in the 71st minute and the game became one of his most dearly held. “I had a long-term injury that eventually forced me to stop playing, that game against Manchester United was my last non-domestic match. It was a dream finale.”
Once he’d hung up his boots Radimov quickly found a new role. “I became a coach and did my internship in Spain. I spent time at Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecan before starting work at Zenit, first as a scout and then working as an assistant to Spalletti. For the last five years I’ve been the manager of the reserve side. I enjoy working with youth players, guys aged from 16 to 20. Our aim is to get them ready for the first team, even though we know that is a difficult task.” His coaching vision is very clear: “I like attacking football, we try to apply pressure and to take risks. In football, you have to take risks if you want to win something!”
This statement can be linked to his time at Zaragoza: “I really like the way they play in La Liga. Spanish football has a lot of variety. This season, I sat down my players to watch Eibar v Betis, so we could watch how Eibar use pressing when playing at home and how Betis were trying to nullify that."
When asked about his career plans Radimov replied: “I am happy at Zenit, I have a contract, but if an interesting offer comes up and it’s a step forward, who knows.”
Zenit’s 2008 UEFA Cup
2nd qualifying round: Zlaté Moravce. 0-2 A, 3-0 H (5-0)
3rd qualifying round: Standard Liège. 3-0 H, 1-1 A (4-1)
AZ Alkmaar. 1-1 H
Larissa. 2-3 A
Nürnberg. 2-2 A
Everton 1-0 A
Last 32: Villarreal. 1-0 H, 2-1 A (2-2)
Last 16: Marseille. 3-1 A, 2-0 H (3-3)
QF: Bayer Leverkusen. 1-4 A, 0-1 H (4-2)
SF: Bayern Munich. 1-1 A, 4-0 H, (5-1)
Final: Glasgow Rangers 2-0