Ex-Spartak midfielder Mozart spoke in an exclusive interview about his work at Cruzeiro, his attitude to Stanislav Cherchesov and astonished by Dzyuba's career take-off.
- You are a coach now, when did you first plan to pursue such a career? Which coaches in Brazil and in Europe are references for you?
- I didn't decide right on the spot that I was going to be a coach. I finished my career in 2010, my last team was Livorno. Then I had nothing to do with football for two years. In 2012 I decided to study coaching, and within a year I had my first experience. As for examples, I’ve worked with a huge number of coaches, many of them have influenced me a lot. But I always try to follow my own ideas and do things in my own way. If we talk about the specialist whose work is most interesting to watch – it’s Maurizio Sarri.
- You’ve been on an apprenticeship in European clubs. Where exactly was that?
- I was at Regina for six months and then in 2016 I spent 8 days at Bayern Munich because my friend Rafinha had played there.
- Have you thought about going to Russia for an apprenticeship?
- In fact, there was such an idea. But because of the language – I’ve never learned it - it wouldn’t have been easy. Plus, it would be a long way to Russia. After all, Germany and, especially, Italy are much closer. At Regina, by the way, not only did I have an apprenticeship, but I also worked there.
- It's always difficult to build a career in Brazil because of the constant change of coaches. How do you handle it?
- It's difficult, it's true. Our careers are linked to the team's results on the field. I always try to work from game to game. In football, it’s important to have time to work on some ideas, but in Brazil you don’t get it. Here you need to build the team on the run, during the matches. At Cruzeiro I haven’t had a single full week of training yet - we play every 2-3 days. But those who work in Brazil are already used to the constant rotation of coaches .
- Cruzeiro have quite picky fans. Does it remind you of Spartak FC? Or was there no such pressure in Russia back then?
- It was, for sure! Spartak fans are also picky. So, they may well be compared to the Brazilian fans.
- What are Cruzeiro's current goals at the moment?
- To return to Serie A, of course! The club is in its second season in the second division, so we need to improve the situation.
- I remember you said that you wouldn’t mind one day coaching Spartak. Is this desire still in place?
- You come to Spartak when you’ve built a good career in football. That's why my work at Cruzeiro will be very important. If everything works out, there will be a chance to show myself in Brasileirao teams or even in Europe. Maybe the doors of Spartak will also open for me. I would really like to work in Russia someday.
- By the way, how did you come to decide to move from Europe to Russia?
- I had an offer from Fiorentina and interest from Roma at the time. Then there was also an offer from Spartak. I went to see Moscow in the summer of 2005, I liked everything and then I decided to sign a contract with a Moscow club. Then I spent 3,5 years in Russia and adapted very well, as did my whole family. Moscow is a great city to live in. And Spartak is a fantastic club with a good organisation and strong support. It’s been a very rich experience in my career.
- You almost instantly became one of the best in the team. How did you quickly come into your own?
- I played seven years in Europe: five in Italy, two in France. So, adaptation was easy in every sense. The intensity of the game wasn’t a surprise either, as I’m used to this kind of thing in Serie A.
- What was the best season for you at Spartak FC?
- I think the one when we’ve played in the Champions League, although we did pretty well in all of the seasons. I managed to score goals in all the derbies, played in the Champions League and the UEFA Cup.
- What was missing for the championship? As Spartak FC were just one step away from gold.
- It's just the greatest disappointment. We were the best club in Russia. And in some details, we lost the title.
- Do you currently follow Spartak FC? And the Russian championship in particular?
- I didn't see many games, due to the number of matches in Brazil,, I just didn't have time to watch other championships. All we did was travel to cities, play and then prepare for the next match.
- What do you think of the new head coach of the red-whites, Rui Vitoria?
- The Portuguese coaching school is now one of the best in the world. You can see that by the number of specialists who work for different European clubs. I'm sure that Vitoria will succeed with Spartak FC. But I think every country has great coaches, they just have their own manners of work. Plus, every country has its own characteristics. It’s important to understand the culture of the country where you will be working, how the players behave, how to work with them every day. This is the only way to achieve the success.
- You’ve worked with Stanislav Cherchesov for a year. What was his success and what was not at Spartak FC?
- It was his formative period as a coach, he was beginning to grow and gain experience. And now he’s working well with the national team, at least that was the case at the 2018 World Cup. But anyhow, to be at the helm of the national team for 5 years is an indicator of the quality of his work. So that period at Spartak FC was a great preparation for the new stage in his career.
- As a coach, can you tell us how you see Cherchesov from those Spartak FC days? What do you remember?
- I don't remember much, because it was so long ago! I remember that some things were similar to what I used to see in Italy. I can say for sure that Cherchesov of 2008 is nothing like Cherchesov of 2021. You can see that the Russian team understand what they are playing at. It’s such straightforward football, where Dzyuba is the most important element, because the game is set up well for him. Russia is interesting to watch, from my perspective.
- Speaking of Dzyuba. When you played with him at Spartak, could you imagine that he would grow into a leader?
- No, he was too young then. Pavlyuchenko played in the starting line-up. I am glad for Dzyuba, but I couldn’t imagine that young fellow would make such a career. Of course, the potential was evident, but no one could have guessed that he would become a leader.
- Cherchesov recently criticised some of the national team players on live broadcast. Was it something similar at Spartak? Or did he tell you everything in a private talk?
- I had only one incident with him. So, I will speak for myself. Everyone remembers how I, Kalinichenko and Titov were sent to the reserves after defeat against CSKA. Then we had a one-on-one talk, understood each other and resolved the matter. I think every coach does what he thinks is right. I would have done things differently in that situation. But there is no right and wrong here, there is the manager's convictions.
- Was it easy for you to work with Cherchesov?
- I was 27-28 years old at the time, I had already worked d with many specialists, so I adapted quickly to different ideas. For me, working with Cherchesov was relaxed.
- Do you know that Guilherme wasn’t called up to the national team after one unsuccessful friendly? Were you surprised that he did not make it to the EURO?
- I'm dumbfounded! Guilherme has been in Russia so long, he has built a great career. Such a decision is strange to say the least. But it was the coach's decision; he probably had his own motives not to call up Guilherme.
EURO AND THE RUSSIAN NATIONAL TEAM
- Were you watching Russia at the EURO? What did you think?
- I saw the match against Belgium. It’s difficult to play on equal terms with one of the best teams in Europe. You need to defend well and counterattack. When Belgium took the lead, it became almost impossible to level. I would say that Belgium are favourites with almost any rival. Russia played well for the most of the game, taking the conditions and the strength of the opponent into account.
- After the spectacular success at the 2018 World Cup, Russia have failed at the EURO. How is this possible with the same coach?
- Sometimes it's hard to judge only by the result, you also have to look at the team's play. But, of course, after their success at the World Cup, we expected a more convincing performance at the EURO.
- Which teams are the main favorites to win the EURO, and who can become the champion of Europe?
- The favourites are Germany, Italy, France and Belgium. I’ve not seen many matches of each team, but I would bet that Germany will win the title.