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Sport director of Zenit Dietmar Beiersdorfer: Zenit should look to the future

Sport director of football club Zenit took up his duties a year ago. For a relatively short time the team, which seemed to never change, transformed for more than fifty per cent. And such Zenit began to attract interest again.

— You may understand my question as you like — in true or figurative sense: do you speak Italian?
— Yes (Smiling)

— Of course, this is because you played for A.C. Reggiana. And your former partner in it Igor Simutenkov later recommended you to Zenit, didn’t he?
—  (Laughing) Actually, at the moment when my first contact with Zenit was, I didn’t even know that Igor was working there.

— Were you friends with each other in Italy?
— Yes. Generally, the things the way they are kept in the whole world are: foreigners keep close to each other, the same, as local players. I can’t say that we were inseparables, but we have quite good memories from ever since.

— How does your normal working day go on in Zenit?
— First of all, I go to training-centre in order to talk with coach to learn the news and fresh impressions about the team. More often such meetings take place during transfer period. Communication with Spalletti helps to form single opinion regarding potential newcomers and make the right choice. At the same time I watch for trainings, and if it is required, I have a short talk with players. When you are closer to the team, you can foresee some or other processes, which can happen in it. In the afternoon I pass by at our academy or go in our main office. On normal days.

— Do you have travel a lot?
— While transfer period — Yes. Generally, we have scouts, who travel a lot. But if I think that one or another player corresponds to our level and goals I come to look at him in practice. Especially, if I haven’t seen him before.

— Your workfellow Frank Arnesen, who, like you, worked in HSV once said: “The main goal of a scout is — not to pint on those players, who are necessary to be taken, but to determine those, who should not be signed in no case”…
— I absolutely agree. Think, for instance, of Zenit: around such club there are usually a lot of people with “the best proposals in the world”, “friendly advices”…

— By taking Shatov, you should probably believe in the fact, that he will gain the former form again, which he lost during “dugout period” in Anji…
— Oleg is one of the most talented football players in Russia in his generation. And he will get necessary time in order to join the team, adapt to style of play. We are absolutely sure in his skills and believe in long-term cooperation of Zenit and this player.

— Were you for or against Denisov’s leave to Anji? And how do you yourself appreciate this player from all points of view?
— The case with Denisov was complicated and at the same time very simple. And many players, including important players, who of them Igor is, have to come through it. If to speak generally, the long and successful way, which Denisov and the club travelled together, came to the end, parties had to take other roads. It was evident that Igor has hit a ceiling here. Both club, and the player himself should look to the future.

— Is it true, that Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen has repelled the offer of Zenit four times?
— We didn’t make offers neither to Eriksen, not to his agent, nor to Ajax. Yes, one time I asked his agent about Eriksen’s current state of affairs, because he is a real tiger with high potential. But it was normal working moment — I should keep up with the market situation. So, it’s nothing special.

Skrtel was preferred to Kompany

— When you were sport director of HSV and later Salzburg, did you have to work regarding some of the players of Zenit?
— I must say, that once I invited for negotiations in Hamburg Martin Skrtel. We met in hotel, vis-à-vis. He and us were very interested in the transfer, then, as I recall right, he didn’t come to team list. We discussed all in details, but the transfer didn’t take place. In the end we took Vincent Kompany from Anderlecht.

— Our sophisticated English colleagues think that Kompany is — an example of intellectual defender, whereas Skrtel — is rather a rude machine. So, at that moment you made the right choice?
— Frankly speaking, I am not sure that at that moment the question was exactly in the choice between Martin and Vincent. In the latter case our main market worked — Belgium and Holland. We watched Vincent at least in 10-15 matches, after which we met with him and his agent. Kompany himself didn’t feel anxiety to play in the Bundesliga, which at that moment (2006 — Sportsdaily.ru) didn’t have such image as today. But step-by-step we talked him round. And actually he was very clever! He always read books, other players nicknamed him Professor. For his 19 years old he seemed to be very adult. Intelligence and self-belief were the main qualities of Kompany. He is now captain of Man City; he really is a very good character and became a great player.

— What, probably, cannot be said about Jerome Boateng, who may also be considered as a product of HSV of your times?
— Jerome … (Thinking). Jerome was … a simple fellow from Berlin. It seems to me we took him after seven matches for Hertha in which he made five serious mistakes, which lead to goals. But we believed in him — signed for a little more than one million euro and sold to Man City for 12.

— How did you risk so, even for one million and a little over?
— Inspite that Boateng didn’t have enough self-confidence, he had physical strength, speed, athleticism. A real rough diamond. As a result he played either in Premier-League, and won the Champions League with FC Bayern, and reached the national team.

— At some time HSV began to take interest in Belorussian players. Antol Putsilo, whom somebody compared with Messi regarding potential, as well as Viacheslav Hleb played at yours. Is it your doing?
— Yes, we have loaned Putsilo, because he actually had a remarkable technique, gentle run. Anton succeeded in several matches, but on the whole he was unstable. Our team gained skills, and increasingly less play time was found for him. As a result we didn’t use our right for purchase.

— It is generally thought that inspite of all talents problems of Belorussian players are – in the mind…
— Anton was a very calm fellow. Maybe too calm. But not bad as a player, later he looked worthful in Freiburg. At ours, I suppose, he was lack of penetrative power, I would say, the ultimative concreteness.

— The list of players, who are famous today, and who came through HSV when you were there, is very long: van der Vaart, van Buyten, de Jong, the same Kompany. Which transfer do you think is the highest of your creative success?
— It’s hard to point out, with each of them a certain experience and feelings are tied. I remember transfer of Olic from CSCA. When he played for us the first five matches, supporters were puzzled: like, what a trackman you introduced to us? He runs the whole match like on a run track. Ivica really run a lot, very fast, but it didn’t transformed into any completed action in the first matches. But when later Olic was leaving for FC Bayern he was adored by everyone in our club.

— That HSV was strange. So many good players, and respectively small return in results. When you had that very injuries epidemic, the team was coached by Thomas Doll. Is this the very case, when streak of bad luck broke coach career?
— That period was really awful. We were losing players, lost in matches, in which we shouldn’t. Doll made a great work in the second team, we took him to the first. Players put their faith in him. Management gave him a chance to the bitter end, but it was necessary to overcome this bad luck. Instead of Doll Huub Stevens came and just then we became the best in the second part of championship. It happens. Doll then although saved Dortmund in the next season from elimination, didn’t work on that level, which he showed in HSV before it.

— Dutchman Huub Stevens is an interesting coach. As a rule, he always yields the result quickly, but didn’t stay for long in clubs…
— I know Stevens very well, when I dealt with the whole Red Bull system, he coached Salzburg. Really, there is a certain limit, for which his teams achieve the result. But it frequently happens that players hit the certain ceiling, after which they began to get tired, to look for excuses. Once again he had to leave HSV during the season because of the health state of his wife, beside whom he should be.

— In your presence a Petric was purchased, who was very good for a couple of seasons. But now due to unaccountable reasons he went off the scene. And you purchased him more expensively that you sold. Is it a classical transfer failure?
— No, Mladlen lived up invested assets, he had a brilliant ability to score goals, and he helped HSV several times during the most important moments. But what happened with him later, I can’t say any more, because I left the club, and Petric stayed there another two years.

— I think, I knew, about what you have a real pity. That such player as Romeo Castelen failed. When in winter he came to Nizhny Novgorod, he confessed that it was you who wanted much to see him in HSV
— Castelen is — a story about a real piece of bad luck! He recommended himself in Feyenoord, was an incredibly fast player. He started also good at ours, supporters liked him very much. But the hardest injury took place, after which he didn’t manage to get rehabilitated. It is extremely problematic to find yourself after this — if you haven’t been playing for two years, it means, that you fall out. I feel a great pity for him, Romeo is — a dear fellow, good companion for fellow-players in the team. It is just a tragedy. I was very glad, when I saw that Castelen scored recently in Holland, where he plays for Waalwijk

Just to begin to fight with FC Bayern…

— The “craze” is — to take a player free, and then to sell him, isn’t it?
— It turned so with Pitroipa. We have always kept an eye on the second Bundesliga. He distinguished himself in Freiburg, and I managed to contact him rather quickly, as soon as the latest year of his contract began. I assured him to shift to HSV, then the club sold him later, it seems to me, for five million.

— By all accounts, you are a good diplomat. Then tell, what relations do you have with the management of FC Bayern? Judging that during your times many players walked over a route Hamburg — Munich and back, everything is ok therewith also.
— I really have a good contact with Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. But our cooperation was like that: when FCB wanted one or another of our players, it poached them by an extrafavourable offer. Once one of our sponsors said to me: “As soon as you began to fight with FC Bayern, downfall will start immediately”. If you don’t let the player go — you will fall, because all football players will want the same money, as you rose to him. If you let him go — you will also fall, because you lose the best. It is a never-ending circle (Laughing). That was with van Buyten. He scored a lot for us, was a captain. We wanted to keep him, but FC Bayern trumped the sum twice.

— Hoeness said once that FC Bayern helps the whole German football. Is it so?
— Maybe, you’ve interpreted his words in some other way? (Laughing) Hoeness always fights for his club and its rights. Sometimes he becomes unfavorable and unpleasant to somebody, but at that he is — a very social person, and has actually done a lot for German football, and all the more for FCB where he is an engine for the whole development. Of course, people from FCB help German football not by the fact that they take away leading players, weakening playing team squad of the competitors, and paying large transfers. Mostly, by support of distribution mechanism of TV rights, which allows each club to have comfortable income. You surely know, that in Spain there is another situation.

— You were responsible for club system of concern Red Bull — in Salzburg, New York, Leipzig. Is it more interesting to work for such an ambitious project, than in HSV?
— It was rather another experience. Red Bull is — a new project, clubs didn’t have traditions from the beginning, as HSV has. It was thought that at first a jump in development is needed, and traditions can come later. Maybe (Laughing). It was absolutely interesting to work, risky. An adventure, so to say.

— All right, something like Anji. The list of coming and leaving players in Salzburg at your times was long enough. Is it a necessary purge of the ranks?
— Something like that. But herewith the club had a right philosophy — to seek more for young players. So Jantscher came, which then played in Dinamo Moscow, Alan. As a result I had to leave Red Bull because of the clash of opinions regarding candidature of a new coach with the firm’s owner.

Klopp wasn’t taken not because of clothes

— Everybody troubles about the question: why the present coach of Borussia Dortmund Jurgen Klopp didn’t become senior coach of HSV though he was in the list of candidates?
— When it became known that Stevens leaves, we began to pick out candidates. We studied thoroughly five of them. Klopp was among them. As a result he didn’t collect the majority among our management. We took Maarten Jol, at whom HSV carried out the most successful season for 22 years.

— There is a yarn: Beiersdorfer shoot down Klopp’s candidature, because he came to negotiations is sport wear.
— Indeed it wasn’t the reason for that we didn’t take him.

— Then again to Champions League. I scarcely will make a mistake if I suppose that you have an occasion to play almost in the most spectacular match of Champions League. In 1993 your Werder scored back three goals after the interval, missed from Anderlecht and won 5:3.
— That’s for sure, it was the craziest match! (Laughing) We were almost bet in changing room, couldn’t say a word. 0:3 at home — it’s a shame, spectators are whistling, some of them began to leave. Otto Rehhagel was shocked himself, but at the end managed to say something like: “OK, let’s try to score fast, and then we’ll overtake. And suddenly we began to score after the interval, and people began to come back from parking — grand stands became crowded again in front of our eyes! We won, they were willing to carry us shoulder high.

— Definitely the last question. Mario Basler drank, smoked, brawled, but actually was great?
—  (Laughing longer) Yes, Mario Basler was a great football player. He was able to do a lot of things, which one can’t learn. An incredible long pass, fierce shot, situation analysis, and at that he was also an incredibly fast. Mario won some matches just alone. But outside the field he was really strange. And it was hard to control him. I was the captain of Werder and once I couldn’t stand more, came to Rehhagel. “Coach, we should influence Mario somehow. Changing room will soon burst up”. And he answered hopelessly: “Rough it, five matches remained before the end of the season. Let’s look at the things as they are”. “OK”, — I said.— “Let’s look” (Laughing).

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