"The club is everything to me," said FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk captain Ruslan Rotan, who told UEFA.com that a winning mentality may be what it takes to beat Sevilla FC.
Article top media content
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk captain Ruslan Rotan has spent the bulk of his career at the club, and as the 33-year-old midfielder tells UEFA.com, the spirit and resilience they have shown under coach Myron Markevych has made this season something special.
UEFA.com: Did you ever think Dnipro could get as far as they have this season?
Ruslan Rotan: Nobody could have predicted it, but if it started off as a dream, the fairy tale began to turn into reality with every game and every round. We are in the final of a major European competition. We are still taking it all in.
Most of the team have played together for a long time and we know each other very well. The most important thing is that with every match we have been growing in confidence.
UEFA.com: Myron Markevych is hugely respected in Ukraine. What has he brought to Dnipro?
Rotan: It's hard to sum it up. On his first day he said to us: "You boys have a good team here, you play well together. We will improve some things, but first of all we need to improve mentally." And that definitely happened – we started to believe we could do more.
UEFA.com: Dnipro played all their European home games in Kyiv this season; did that present any problems?
Rotan: To begin with, it was very difficult because we were playing to empty stands. We really wanted people in Dnipropetrovsk to watch us, but with the situation in our country we had to follow the rules – and to some extent that also made us stronger. But with every game, more and more fans came, and for the semi-final the stadium was full, which is thanks to the fans in Kyiv who came to support us.
UEFA.com: One of your semi-final heroes was Denys Boyko. How would you describe him as a goalkeeper and a team-mate?
Rotan: First of all, he is a professional – you can sing his praises but he is just doing his job. Of course, when you know you can rely on your team-mate and he will never let you down, that's really important – on the pitch or in training. And when we train as a squad, we train hard – we don't mess around. And off the pitch, we get on – we go out together, we relax together. That was probably crucial in us reaching the final.
UEFA.com: Will Dnipro's preparations for the final be different from previous games?
Rotan: They will, because this is the final and everyone knows the pressure will be much greater. Everyone understands that one game can turn a fairy tale into reality. Things like this don't happen every day – for me it will be the first time and I'll be very proud to be there.
UEFA.com: How do you think Dnipro will go about taking on Sevilla FC?
Rotan: They're the favourites, they're the holders, they're a very good Spanish team with fast players and fast attacks – everything that modern football demands. But I think what will matter more is motivation. Whoever is more resilient will win.
UEFA.com: You have spent most of your career at Dnipro. What is special about this club?
Rotan: I have been at Dnipro since I was 14. The club is everything to me – it's in my heart. I just can't imagine myself without this club. I remember when we had an old training base and everything was falling apart. The club has come a long way since – there is a modern training base, so all that we have to focus on is playing football, and you can see the results today.
I am delighted for the club and proud, because Dnipro have already won trophies at domestic level. We have always been very competitive and now we are in the final of this prestigious tournament. We really want this trophy in our club museum.