Veteran Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu has seen it all in a coaching career spanning 24 years. His achievements are long and varied, from leading his country to the 1984 UEFA European Championship finals to winning titles in Romania, Italy, Turkey and now Ukraine. At FC Shakhtar Donetsk he has set about breaking FC Dynamo Kyiv's stranglehold on Ukrainian football, with his customary success.
Shakhtar were champions in his first season at the club last year and are top of the table again this term. Defeat by his former club FC Internazionale Milano in UEFA Champions League qualifying was a setback, but Lucescu and Shakhtar's grand ambition remains. With a UEFA Cup group stage berth there for the taking on Thursday as they travel to Hungary's Debreceni VSC 4-1 up, Lucescu told uefa.com why Shakhtar are the rising star of the east.
uefa.com: You have won titles with Shakhtar, FC Dinamo Bucuresti, AFC Rapid Bucuresti, Brescia Calcio, Galatasaray SK and Besiktas JK. How does your success at Shakhtar compare to the others?
Mircea Lucescu: Everywhere it is difficult to win. A championship is a championship. You have to have a very good strategy, an extraordinary relationship with the players, with the supporters. There has to be a good ambience. It's not easy to succeed, especially here where Dynamo had won eleven of the previous 12 titles. They are the symbolic team of the former Soviet Union and then Ukraine and it wasn't easy to change the situation and put Shakhtar at the top. For that reason the success I have had here at Shakhtar is very, very important.
uefa.com: Shakhtar aspire to be Champions League regulars and are building a new stadium. Are they a club on the rise?
Lucescu: It's the stadium, it's the structure. Shakhtar is a club in the avant-garde for the eastern countries. We have a president [Rinat Akhmetov] who loves football, who has invested in football, and who wants to do it here in Ukraine, not abroad. That's why, to try and compete with the big teams in Europe we are trying to get good players. For the moment we can only convince young players to come here, they are big talents, but young without a lot of experience. Players with a lot of experience and high values prefer to stay in the west.
uefa.com: How does Shakhtar compare with the sides you would like to be competing against?
We aren't yet at the level of big European clubs. To get to that level you have to an international image, a tradition, a history. You have to have political power, economic power, we're trying to have them. All those things create a team, not just the players we have at our disposition. We have just started our climb up the European football ladder.
uefa.com: What was your reaction to being drawn against Inter, your former club, on the day of your 60th birthday, in the third qualifying round of the Champions League?
Lucescu: It was bad luck, they're good enough to win the title this year with all the signings they have made. It was sad Shakhtar did not have the chance to play against another team. They have a young coach [Roberto Mancini] with great intelligence and a president who loves football like our president, [Massimo] Moratti who I know very well. He is an extraordinary person. He loves football much more than money. That's a good thing for our respective presidents.
uefa.com: What are your thoughts on Mancini?
Lucescu: He is an excellent boy, above all a gentleman. He is educated and has great experience. Even during his time as a player he was a coach on the pitch. I hold him in high esteem. He is one of the coaches of the future of Italian football, the head of the new generation.
uefa.com: What did you make of your time in Italy?
Lucescu: I was in Italy for eight years [including five seasons at Brescia]. There are very few foreign coaches who have stayed in Italy that long.
Many foreign coaches have come and gone very quickly, so the fact I was able to stay in Italy for eight years says I did my job well and integrated well into Italian football. I was unfortunate when I was at Inter. I took over in December and with a big team you have to start before the season begins.
uefa.com: What are you most proud of in your career?
Lucescu: To have helped young players progress. To have educated them and introduced them to great football. I am more proud of that than the titles I have won, anywhere. The second is the quality of football my teams have played. Don't forget at Inter we scored 25 goals in my first five games, a record at the San Siro.
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