13 August, 2013 - 15:41

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk: "By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible"

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk: "By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible"

Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk speaks exclusively to FootballTop about his comeback to the Russian Premier League, tough character of Louis van Gaal and more.

— Anatoliy, last season you won the Champions League with Bayern Munich, which is a top achievement for a player on club level. You would hardly be able to repeat that success with Zenit. What are your main goals in St. Petersburg?
— You know, after losing the first Champions League final with Bayern I sat down and thought: “It’s been a dream of my entire football life — to win this tournament”. And I told my friends that it was totally disappointing to lose like that, in the last game, with victory so close.. In the second final we were way better than our opponents, but lost in penalty shoot-out. I told my friends and relatives: “It will probably never happen again. It’s unbelievable! Outclass the rival, play at home, in front of your own crowd and concede…” But we did clinch the title in the third attempt! So I always try to stick to “By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible” motto. And it works. Every year I asked for what seemed to be impossible and in the end achieved the goals. It can be hard, you can have problems, but you just step over it. I aspired, i worked, i went in for the result and helped the team to reach their goals. That is how I set my goals in St. Petersburg: to win the national championship, the Cup, get to the Champions League group stage. Fight for the result in every single match.

— Do you keep in touch with any Bayern Munich players?
— Yes, it’s Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Mario Mandžukić, Xherdan Shaqiri. They were actually my main friends during my Munich time. I try to keep in touch with them.

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— These players are European stars. Two players of such caliber joined Zenit last season, Hulk and Axel Witsel. Having worked with them for some time, can you say they are far better than other players of the Russian Premier League?
— It is quite tricky for any player to build the game individually. It all depends on the whole squad. Of course, there are outstanding personalities like Messi, who can turn the match upside down. Moreover, he can do it consistently. But they are few. It is up to the players to develop their potential or not. Because in any age there is always space for improvement. Russian championship is not an easy one, there are a lot of tough clubs. New players need time to adapt, to feel the game. Hulk and Witsel are part of our team now and hopefully they will contribute to our targets. No matter how big the squad is, it can be 20 or 25 players, we should always be as one. Bayern is a good example of how players who get little time on the pitch should be treated. Both manager and the board have often reiterated on the fact that we are not a team of 11, we are 20-22 players, who train together and keep fit. Any time somebody ruled out of the squad or had a break there was another player who fit perfectly without any influence on tactics or performance. We just went on and got results. That is why we broke all possible records last season.

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Photo: Petr Petrovski/FootballTop

— Uli Hoeneß has repeated several times that you are a special part of the squad, creating unique climate inside the team. That was the reason for not letting you for a loan spell with Wolfsburg. How did you manage to impress Bayern management?
— It was difficult for me to integrate in the team and everybody saw that. Something could hurt, something could be wrong. But if I was in the training - I gave 100%. And your partners would always ignite seeing you giving your best. That is how we maintained constant quality that emerged into results.

— Your main rival was Marc van Bommel. Have you ever discussed that competition with him?
— Upon my arrival he was the main squad player and I was contracted to provide competition. But the new coach Louis van Gaal said I would not play on that position and never let me on the pitch. He said he was not really interested in my services. However, i decided to prove him he was wrong in trainings. It might have surprised him at first but it was the Dutch coach who did not let me leave on loan later. During 4 years at Bayern I made 134 official appearances. Sometimes I played 90 minutes, sometimes came as a substitute, but anyway it’s appearance for Bayern Munich, so this number speaks for itself.

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— Have you felt some relief after the sacking of Louis van Gaal?
— Many people congratulated me saying I lasted longer than the coach, but I felt calm on that. Any coach can get in van Gaal’s shoes if he works in a big club and does not give result. But he paid the price for being too pragmatic, for his way of treating people. But I was really surprised to see his successor coming up to me and say I would start in all the games. At that moment we needed to finish third to get in the Champions League. I asked him why he had not told van Gaal about that?! I started the remaining five games plus friendlies. In the end we finished third and reached our goal.

So strange things can happen in football at times. It is not easy to understand if you have never experienced it. When you are at a club as big as Bayern Munich you have to fight for 18-19 squad place, let alone the starting 11. That is why every training turns into competition. When they buy a 40-million player on your position, you realise he will have a huge credit and get in the starting squad regardless of performance. What I did was keep giving my best in trainings. There was a time under Heynckes when the coach could not make up his mind over me and Luiz Gustavo and we played every other match. To put it short there were different times at Bayern. But now that I am back at Zenit I hope my work attitude, experience and physics will contribute to the club’s success.

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— Let’s get back to van Gaal issue, if you don’t mind. Obviously he is not fans’ favorite now after an unsuccessfull spell. Nevertheless, there are positive memories, too, aren’t there?
Van Gaal is definitely a good specialist. He had interesting exercises, tactical schemes, coordinated training process. But there are always relations with players, club management that matter, too. It’s not easy to get good results if you have many discontent players in the squad.

Sometimes weird things would happen. Once he told me to change my number. Why would I change my number 44, given by the club? He said he only accepted numbers from 1 to 39. Same story happened to a player with number 77 kit - he was forced to change it to 13. Why was this happening? I refused to change mine and was told I would not play any more. Such things were absolutely astonishing.

We had a corridor with images of the players along the way. And he would claim that there were two pictures of Tymoshchuk. In reality you could see my silhouette in the background of Klose image. Still it was worrying him. He would pick to the very minor things!

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— Now you are back at Zenit but if one day you get an invitation from Shakhtar, would you consider it?
— Shakhtar is a club where I made my first professional steps in football. I grew with the club and we were reaching seemingly unbelievable results. I am glad to have chosen Shakhtar time ago: it is easy to progress in such an ambitious team, follow your goals. My run with Zenit was shorter but comparable in emotional aspect. So if one day they call me up from Shakhtar, I would consider it. I deeply respect the club, their president Rinat Akhmetov, who put amazing efforts for the development of the club.

— Once your career is over, you’ll have to settle down somewhere. Will it be Donetsk, Saint Petersburg, Munich?
— For now my family is based in Germany — my children were born in Munich, they feel great there. But you never know.

Dmitri Malyshev
Photo: Alex Dmitriev/FootballTop

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Author: Leon Smolski

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