A clever midfielder for FC Dinamo Minsk and the old USSR national team, Belarus's Sergei Aleynikov also had success in Italy during a fine career.
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To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Belarus chose Sergei Aleynikov as their Golden Player.
The Football Federation of Belarus (BFF) named Sergei Aleynikov as its best player of the last 50 years in July 2003, following a poll of Belarusian coaches, journalists and fans carried out by the national newspaper Pressbol.
The result was no surprise given Aleynikov's achievements with FC Dinamo Minsk, the country's leading club where he spent most of his career. Born on 7 November 1961, Aleynikov joined Dinamo in 1981 and won the USSR championship the following season, before a third-place finish in 1983 and defeat in the USSR Cup final four years later. The midfield player was then sold to Juventus in 1989, and in his first campaign in Italy lifted the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia.
He left Juventus to sign for US Lecce in 1991, and 12 months later headed to Japan to play for Gamba Osaka in the newly formed J-League. Finally, Aleynikov wound down his career with Swedish side IK Oddevold in 1996. A defensive-minded player, he might only have been remembered for his diligence and effectiveness, were it not for his presence on the field. He always seemed to make the right decision, and it is hard to recall him ever letting his team-mates down.
On his selection as Belarus's Golden Player, Aleynikov said: "I am very happy that my performances are so highly regarded and that I am part of Belarusian football history. Now I can say that I didn't play for all those years for nothing." Not that recognition eluded him during his career; his international debut in 1984 was the first of Aleynikov's 73 appearances for the USSR, in which he scored six goals.
He found the net at both the 1986 FIFA World Cup and the 1988 UEFA European Championship, helping the USSR reach the final of the latter tournament. Two years later was picked to play for a World XI against Brazil in Milan in a match organised to celebrate Pelé's 50th birthday. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Aleynikov appeared four times for the CIS, then had the opportunity to represent Belarus and won four caps before retiring from international football.
Despite the experience of his 546 top-flight appearances, Aleynikov has struggled to make a career in coaching. He was sacked as head coach of Russian club FC Torpedo-Metallurg Moskva after only eight rounds of the 2003 season. "I was too gentle with the players," he said. "Now I realise I should have been stricter."
Aleynikov is now based in Italy where he spent two seasons working with youngsters in the Juventus academy from 2005-07. He then spent the 2007/08 season coaching NK Kras, an amateur side in the Promozione division – seventh tier – of Italian football.
Aleynikov admitted to having doubts about the modern game when talking to UEFA.com in 2004. "The standard of football has suffered because of the all-absorbing commercialisation. Players are bought and sold for incredible prices, but coaches cannot give a chance to everyone in their squad," he said.
His former team-mates, however, have no doubt about Aleynikov's own qualities. Forward Ihor Belanov said: "We played a lot together for the USSR national team. Aleynikov is one of the few players who was respected by everyone at [rivals FC] Dynamo Kyiv. He could do many things on the field. He was consistent and confident in his abilities. He is also a very nice person – an open-minded man who is nice to be around."
Another ex-Soviet Union colleague, Aleksandr Chivadze, added: "Sergei was very versatile; he was good going forward as well as being strong defensively. For the USSR, he was usually sent out to play against the opposition's best player – and often won that individual battle while also helping to start our attacks."
Last updated: 21 January 2011