An FC Spartak Moskva fan and former player, Dmitri Alenichev is enjoying more than most seeing the club impress in the UEFA Champions League. The team sit second in Group F, a situation made all the sweeter by the fact his friend and old team-mate Valeri Karpin is at the helm. Alenichev looks at Spartak's progress, examines the state of Russian football and remembers his European successes with José Mourinho's FC Porto.
Were you surprised by Karpin's appointment as Spartak coach? How do you see him developing?
I know Valeri and he didn't expect to become head coach. He said some time ago he didn't see his future being in football but life has surprised him. It is obvious he is growing as a coach every month. I go to every Spartak game and I can see the improvement. The most important thing is he is fanatical about his work and is working 24 hours a day. He thinks only football. I wish with all my heart that he is successful.
PFC CSKA Moskva made it to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals last season and Spartak have a good chance of progressing this term. Is this evidence of a renaissance for Russian football?
Yes, of course – the results speak for themselves. Nothing is impossible and from what I have seen, one of our teams could win the Champions League in the near future. Zenit and CSKA have already won the UEFA Cup.
I believe we are on the right track and, although they are small steps, we are moving forward. This is why Spartak can one day win the Champions League.
What does it mean to Russian football that the champions over the last four years have all been teams from outside Moscow?
It tell us the people in power in other regions are interested in, and investing in, football. Rubin Kazan won the league two years in a row and now Zenit are champions again. They have invested in players and I am sure they have got a bright future.
What memories do you have of the UEFA Champions League? You scored in the 2004 final for Porto.
That moment capped my professional career, it was recognition for all my hard work. Having talent is not enough – you need to work hard and I was happy to do that. José Mourinho won both the UEFA Cup and the Champions League with us, which really was a great achievement.
How did it feel to score goals in the finals of both those competitions?
I can honestly say it was very unexpected – I could never have dreamed of doing that. It was a gift but I deserved it.
I have always treated football with great respect and people say that is why football has treated me kindly in return.
Mourinho came to Moscow for your farewell match. Do you still have a good relationship?
Yes, he is like my second father. This is a person who did everything for me and there is not enough time to say all the good things about him. He really is a great coach and a remarkable person who is still helping and advising me. We meet up whenever we have the chance and we have the warmest relationship. I hope he continues with the success he had at Porto, Chelsea and Inter.
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