A wealthy owner and a legion of Portuguese players are looking to revitalise FC Dinamo Moskva.
By Eduard Nisenboim
Back in the days of the Soviet Union, FC Dinamo Moskva were a big name in European football, but since the early 1990s, they have been in a steep decline. However, all of that may be about to change as a new owner and a seriously revamped squad have left fans hopeful of a new dawn.
It took a brilliant save from Maxym Levitsky in the final minutes of Dinamo's final game of the 2004 season against FC Spartak Moskva to save the club from relegation. However, in 2005 the club's new majority shareholder, enterpreneur Aleksei Fedorychev, is expecting much better.
Until the owner of Fedcominvest, a major player in the mineral fertilizers market, bought a 51 per cent share in the club, the blue-and-whites had been one of the few sides in Russia without a rich benefactor. And since his arrival they have already undergone seismic changes.
Fedorychev was a low-key sponsor for Dinamo in 2000 and 2001, but his interests in football have since increased. One of the major sponsors behind AS Monaco FC's trip to the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League final, he is hoping that his money will pay dividends in his new role as Dinamo chairman.
His allocation of a €20m budget for the coming season, with a further €115m to be invested in the club's infrastructure - their stadium, training facilities and youth academy - over the next two seasons, has alerted Russian fans to the fact that Dinamo are planning to make a major impact on Russian football.
Fedorychev has also bought the television rights to all Russian Premier-Liga games until 2007, as well as the rights to 80 per cent of all perimeter advertising space at Premier-Liga stadiums over the same period. Managing director Yuri Zavarzin, meanwhile, has strengthened Dinamo's presence in the higher echelons of the Russian game after being voted the new Premier-Liga president.
Dinamo have been matching their owner's investment off the field with investment on it. Former Spartak coach Oleg Romantsev, the most successful Russian coach in recent history, took up the reins at Dinamo at the end of last season and has already made his ambitions clear for 2005.
"No offence to the current generation of Dinamo players, but in my opinion they do not correspond to the image of the club," the former Russia coach said. "
We are going to go with ambitious footballers, who are used to winning and who believe that the team will regain its former glory very soon."
With Otar Khizaneishvili, Andrejs Prohorenkovs, Aleksei Mihailov and Martin Hašek already offloaded, Dinamo have signed defender German Kutarba, midfield player Sergei Kuznetsov and are soon to complete a deal for the highly rated FC Shinnik Yaroslavl defender Emir Spahic.
More incredibly, they have also raided Portugal for players, bringing in Derlei and Thiago from European champions FC Porto as well as Nuno Frechaut (Boavista FC), Danny (Sporting Clube de Portugal) and Cicero (SC Braga). Romantsev stuck to Portuguese speakers in an effort to form a united core to his new-look side.
"For me football is work," said Derlei. "Maybe our wives will have a hard time changing their lives so drastically, but a professional football player should be used to everything. When I have learned enough Russian, even the smallest problems will disappear." For the teams who have to compete with Dinamo in 2005, the problems have only just begun.