FC BATE Borisov coach Viktor Goncharenko refuses to be discouraged despite a raft of players leaving the Belarussian titleholders after their impressive autumn campaign in the UEFA Champions League group stage. "We won't make a drama out of our situation," he promised.
Reaching the group stage of Europe's élite competition brought BATE international recognition, and they did not disgrace themselves, bowing out after earning three draws in a section featuring Juventus, Real Madrid CF and FC Zenit St. Petersburg. That performance, and the attending media exposure, resulted in a number of BATE players finding new clubs during the winter.
Having previously lost Aleksandr Hleb, Vitali Kutuzov and Yuri Zhevnov, BATE are accustomed to seeing their brightest stars move on. But with the 31-year-old Goncharenko staying true to his word and remaining at the helm – despite interest from abroad – the one-time tractor factory team have rustled up a fresh batch of talent.
Replacements have been found for Russian defenders Anri Khagush, Anton Sakharov and Vitali Kazantsev, who all signed for clubs in their country's Premier-Liga. BATE looked to the squad that will represent Belarus at this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship, with Maksim Bordachov arriving from FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk and Igor Shitov recruited from FC Torpedo Zhodino.
In midfield, Mikhail Sivakov left for Cagliari Calcio, 34-year-old Aleksandr Ermakovich retired, and the promising Maksim Zhavnerchik departed for FC Kuban Krasnodar after being consigned to BATE's reserves. However, Goncharenko may have unearthed another gem in the creative Aleksandr Pavlov, with the 24-year-old acquired from FC Dnepr-Transmash Mogilev already a full international.
Forwards Vitali Rodionov and Gennadi Bliznyuk may prove harder to replace – the pair are now scoring goals in the 2. Bundesliga for SC Freiburg and FSV Frankfurt. Nigerian-born FC Neman Grodno forward Silvester Alumona has filled one berth; a deal for FC Dinamo Brest's Dmitri Mozolevski foundered, yet BATE retain hopes of signing Armenian attacker Hovhannes Goharyan.
The 20-year-old scored 22 goals in 24 games for FC Lokomotiv Moskva's reserves last season, and may yet end up learning a trick or two from Vitali Bulyga. The 29-year-old Belarussian international has returned to his homeland after six years in Russia, mainly with PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara, FC Tom Tomsk and FC Luch-Energia Vladivostok, to link up with BATE.
"We won't make a drama out of our situation," said Goncharenko, whose side are chasing a fourth successive league title in 2009. "Of course it is hard to replace Rodionov and Bliznyuk, who scored most of our goals, but that means we have to be a bit more creative. We have a fine squad with a strong midfield. If we find the right balance, we should start scoring again."
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