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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreigners Take Helm in Russia

No Russian club or Russian trainer has ever won a European soccer trophy, but next season two men with three European trophies between them will take charge at champions CSKA Moscow and Spartak Moscow.

One's an Italian, the other is Portuguese.

Italian Nevio Scala, winner of the European Cup Winner's Cup and UEFA Cup with Parma, will be Spartak's fourth coach in a year when he takes over in January, while Artur Jorge, winner of the European Cup with Porto in 1987 is already in charge of CSKA, having taken over from Valery Gazzayev, despite the former Russian national coach's winning the army side's first title in 12 years.

Scala and Jorge's arrival represents a revolution for Russian soccer. It means that when the new season starts next March at least four of the 16 Russian Premier League teams will have foreign head coaches. Zenit St. Petersburg, after finishing second in its first season under Vlastimil Petrzela, will continue to be coached by the Czech, while his countryman, Jaroslav Hrebik, took over at Dynamo Moscow last month. In the ranks behind Russia's most successful team Lokomotiv, led by Yury Syomin, is Portuguese coach Mariano Barreto.

Unlike other major European leagues, such as England and Italy, where foreign trainers have long been common, the influx is a new phenomenon as Russian clubs, awash with money, look to get into the European elite and the even bigger money of the Champions League.

Russian coaches have proven inadequate -- with the exception of Yury Syomin at Lokomotiv and Oleg Romantsev in his early days at Spartak -- for the realities of modern European soccer.

"There's stagnation," said Vladimir Radionov, the general secretary of the Russian Football Union, welcoming the new arrivals. Among Russian clubs, it is the same faces in charge of clubs from one year to the next.

"They go from one club to another, it's a closed circle, today CSKA, tomorrow Spartak and there's no fresh blood. We want that trainers to come who've played [and trained] in France, Italy and Spain," he said, saying it will help to teach Russian trainers new ideas.

Officials had hopes that young trainers such Igor Shalimov and Sergei Aleinikov, 37, who took over at Uralan Elista and Torpedo Mettalurg after returning from lengthy spells playing and coaching in Italy, would be that fresh blood, but neither was a success. Aleinikov was sacked less than a third way through the season, while Shalimov lost his job last month after Uralan was relegated.

There were calls last year for a foreign coach for the national team -- a couple of eager businessman fans even offered to donate a $1 million to pay his wages -- but the success of Georgy Yartsev in getting Russia to Euro 2004 means that is unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Still, Jorge and Scala's appointments resulted in cautious words from the State Sports Committee head Vyacheslav Fetisov.

"You can judge it positively and critically," Fetisov said last month at a meeting with players and the coaching staff from the Russian national team, Interfax reported.

"On the other hand, Russian training school has far from lost its potential," noting that a number of Russian soccer players were abroad gaining experience.

"Judging by their interest in training, I think there is sense in giving experienced soccer players a chance," he said, adding that veteran trainers such as Konstantin Beskov and Valentin Ivanov could provide advice.

Both of the new coaches are examples of the new international, "have ball, will travel" type. Players of repute in their own right, Jorge won four league titles and played 30 times for Portugal, while Scala won the Italian Serie A as a player in a noted career. Both have coached all over Europe after success in their own countries.

After winning the European Cup with Porto, Jorge has coached the Portuguese and Swiss national teams, taken Paris St. Germain to the French title in 1994 as well as coaching at clubs in Spain, Holland and Saudi Arabia. After leading Parma to European success, Scala went on to coach Borussia Dortmund, Besiktas and Shaktyor Donetsk. He took Donetsk to its first ever title but left after failing to get the team to the group stages of the Champions League.

Although this is the first wave in the Russian league, it is not the first in Soviet history. The league had its fair share of trainers from the Soviet republics, as does the Russian league, but few know that trainers from outside the union are not new, with foreigners successfully coaching in the Soviet Union in, strangely, 1936 and 1937, at the height of the Stalinist repressions.

That year, Czech Jul Limbek, took Dynamo Tbilisi to the autumn league title before going onto to coach Lokomotiv, football historian Aksel Vartanyan said.

Such coaches exerted a huge influence on Soviet soccer, which was in its infancy. The first national championship had only begun in 1936 with the country in political and football isolation and many of the teams playing without any coaches at all. Limbek and others were no accidental choices, coming from countries that the Soviet Union had made some kind of detente with, like Czechoslovakia, as the fear of Germany had begun to rise with Hitler's rise to power. Limbek was chosen after a Soviet team had toured France, playing against his then club Racing Paris, Vartanyan said.

Limbek ran training schools in Tbilisi, a forerunner of the training schools that most postwar coaches had to go through to qualify.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, foreign coaches have taken longer to make their mark in Russia than in other former Soviet countries, partly through pride and partly though lack of finances.

Soviet coaches were respected throughout the world, and figures such as Boris Arkadiev, Mikhail Tovarovsky, Viktor Maslov and Valery Lobanovsky are rightly considered revolutionaries.

Trainers wrote respected theoretical books and passed on their knowledge on to their students. Konstantin Beskov, who last trained Spartak to the title in 1987, took something from Arkadiev who in learned from Mikhail Yakushin, all legendary coaches.

Vartanyan said the English 4-4-2 system of Sir Alf Ramsay was foreshadowed by Maslov and that Valery Lobanovsky's Dynamo Kiev certainly influenced the soccer of the Dutch team of 1974.

But if in Soviet times a coach could only be sacked with the Russian Football Union's say-so, the game is different now, run by businessmen eager for quick success and eager to pay for the best trainers to change Russia's poor record on the European scene.

Gazzayev was sacked despite the title because he failed to get into the lucrative stages of the Champions League. Scala and Jorge have been brought over dependent on success and are estimated to be on wages close to $1 million a year.

Both know that failure will see them sacked just as quickly.