"Tbilisi is a great football city with special fans," said UEFA Super Cup ambassador Georgi Kinkladze as the ex-Manchester City hero looked ahead to Barcelona v Sevilla.
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It is 17 years since Georgi Kinkladze last played for Manchester City, but despite the incredible talent that has subsequently shone for the Premier League club, it speaks volumes for his dazzling skill that he remains a cult hero with City fans. His darting runs and delight in beating defenders lit up both English and Georgian football and he was twice named Georgian player of the year. Now 42, the UEFA Super Cup ambassador is excited by the prospect of seeing European club football's finest bring a similar attacking verve to his native Tbilisi.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to Georgian football to host the UEFA Super Cup?
Georgi Kinkladze: It's a great honour for the whole country. I want to thank UEFA, our government and the Georgian Football Federation for staging such a big match in our capital. It will do a lot of good for our country.
UEFA.com: How much of a footballing hotbed is Tbilisi?
Kinkladze: Tbilisi is a great football city with special fans. They only need to watch 10 or 15 minutes to tell you who has the potential to play at a decent level in the future. The games and players they have seen give them a very deep understanding of football. These days they rarely experience the emotions fans in England, the Netherlands or Germany feel every week – perhaps only for national-team games – but it was different in the past. Our fans are very passionate and football will always be the No1 sport in our country.
UEFA.com: Which Georgian players stood out when you were growing up?
Kinkladze: Almost all the Dinamo Tbilisi players were our heroes, but I always wanted to be like David Kipiani. When I became a player myself I had the chance to work with him in the national team. Kipiani was a master both as player and coach, but it was as a No10 that I liked him best. As for his technique and style, it wasn't just me who liked that but the whole country. Players like him are rare.
UEFA.com: You were known for your mesmerising dribbles during your career. What do you make of Lionel Messi and what he can do with the ball?
Kinkladze: I heard an interview with Sir Alex Ferguson where he revealed his greatest players of all time. He said Messi was in a category of his own. I am a big fan of [Diego] Maradona but Messi is a phenomenon. His performances at club level are unbelievable. You can play a season or two like that, but not all these years. He set the bar very high from the start.
UEFA.com: What are your thoughts on Barcelona and Sevilla?
Kinkladze: Trophies are the priority for big clubs like these two and Barcelona were at their best last season. I like Barcelona's style of play very much and really enjoy their performances. Sevilla are good as well. They are a very solid side. They won their fourth UEFA Cup or Europa League and have made the Super Cup an all-Spanish affair. I expect a very interesting game.
UEFA.com: What is it like to play at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena?
Kinkladze: It is where I most liked to play. I get quite nostalgic about the days when teams took to the field to the strains of Matvei Blanter's 'Football March' anthem. I cannot express how much it meant to me.
UEFA.com: What is your fondest memory of your playing career?
Kinkladze: Possibly the day I moved to Dinamo Tbilisi from Mretebi Tbilisi and then when I signed for Manchester City.
UEFA.com: You are now sporting director for Georgian side Tskhinvali, who competed in the UEFA Europa League for the first time this season...
Kinkladze: We have a young team and cannot expect too much at the moment, but we could still have got past the first qualifying round [against Romanian club Botoşani]. The lads did their best, but unfortunately we don't have the players we used to. It's sad for me to see Georgian football going through a rough patch, but I hope we will get ourselves out of this situation even if it takes time.
UEFA.com: What advice do you give Georgian youngsters looking to make their way in the game today?
Kinkladze: You have to love what you do. A footballer has to come to training thinking of nothing other than training and playing. Of course you also require the proper conditions. Talents are born in Georgia and many have what it takes to play football – they just need to develop their qualities to eventually play at a high level.
This interview appears in the official UEFA Super Cup programme