With the start of Borussia Dortmund’s Europa League campaign upon us, we have asked Toke Møller Theilade, who is the editor-in-chief of Russianfootballnews.com to present BVB’s first opponent FC Krasnodar. We have returned the favour and introduced the Black and Yellows on RFN, which you can find in a well-rounded article on UEL Group C among introductions of PAOK and Qabala FC – it’s well worth the read.
FC Krasnodar are one of Russia’s most interesting and exciting football projects, and the foundation the project is built on is far from what most people connect with Russian football, especially not when they hear that the club is founded and owned by an oligarch.
FC Krasnodar was founded in 2010, when Sergey Galitsky decided to build a football club with different values than what he found at Krasnodar’s biggest club, the historic Kuban Krasnodar. Galitsky is one of Russia’s richest men with a fortune on around $11 billion according to Forbes. He made his fortune on selling perfumes and cosmetics in the 1990s before he in 1998 created the retail chain Magnit, which is now the biggest retail chain in Russia. He is furthermore one of the few billionaires in Russia who doesn’t live in either Moscow or St. Petersburg, as he has chosen to stay in his native Krasnodar.
Since the club was established Galitsky has financed a brand new, state-of-the-art academy, and he has expressed a wish to one day play with only local players from the Krasnodar region. Unlike other Russian clubs, Krasnodar has been built slowly, and the squad consists of players who have either been bought cheap at big clubs or upcoming players from smaller clubs who can be sold for a profit.
When the club opened its academy Galitsky made it clear how he wants to build the club: “We aren’t seeking quick blast-offs,” he said, “We want to develop gradually and get only what we deserve. We haven’t rushed to set up goals, either in business or in football. Our goal has been to understand how to act and then to move gradually.”
Despite the slow growth, Krasnodar couldn’t avoid being punished for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations this summer, which forced them to limit their signings to free transfers and loans. They did however make the most of it, as they brought in experienced and proven players like Russian internationals Fedor Smolov and Dmitri Torbinski, Norwegian international Stefan Strandberg and the strong midfielder Charles Kabore who was loaned from city rivals Kuban Krasnodar.
The club did however lose the two experienced Russian stars Roman Shirokov and Marat Izmailov whose loans ended, but nevertheless Krasnodar managed to leave the transfer window stronger and with more depth.
Krasnodar, also known as the Bulls, finished third last season, which was the best result in the short history of the club. The result could however have been even better, as they occupied the second place until the 88th minute of the last round, when a goal by CSKA Moscow’s Pontus Wernbloom took the Muscovites back on the Champions League giving second place.
The club is led by Belarussian Oleg Kononov, who we chose as Coach of the Year at Russianfootballnews.com last season, who has been in charge since the beginning of the 2013/2014 season. He has improved Krasnodar a lot since he took over, something that was proved when the Bulls defeated Zenit in St. Petersburg a few weeks ago.
Despite the fact that Krasnodar prefers to be in possession and control their games, their defensive is currently their strongest side, as they have only conceded four goals so far this season. The defense is built around the Nordic duo Andreas Granqvist from Sweden and Ragnar Sigurdsson from Iceland, and on the midfield, they get help from Norwegian Stefan Strandberg. Furthermore, Krasnodar have some aggressive midfielders, who all fit perfectly into the club’s fast counterattacking schemes, where they can either pass the ball to the striker or one of the wingers, who are all quick on their feet.
Krasnodar’s big problem this season has been the lack of a clinical finisher, and the biggest threat is currently Fedor Smolov who has scored twice so far. Smolov has many strengths but finishing is not one of them, which is worrying as poor finishing was exactly what caused Krasnodar to miss some big results last season, where they had the chances to advance from an otherwise difficult Europa League group.
While it was obvious that Krasnodar was nervous and inexperienced during the European matches last season, I believe that this year we will see a more calm and clinical Krasnodar team. By travelling around Europe and playing at big stadiums, they have gained experience that will be crucial this year. They have a strong collective, and both the squad and the head coach are well-selected. The many games Krasnodar played in the beginning of the season took its toll on the players, as they got off to a shaky start in the league, but they have since recovered, as they looked tremendous in last weekend’s 4-0 smashing of Dinamo Moscow.