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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Smertin: Inspired by Chelsea

APSmertin wants to start for Chelsea.
Russia captain Alexei Smertin believes that winning trophies in his first season with English champion Chelsea will help him to instill a hunger for victory in the national team.

"It's very important to have a proper attitude in building a winning team. I understood that simple principle playing for Chelsea," said the versatile halfback.

Fueled by a steady cashflow from Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea was the dominant force in English soccer last season, winning the championship and the League Cup.

Smertin said it was an unforgettable feeling when the club clinched its first Premier League title in 50 years with four games to spare.

"It was unbelievable. First, winning the title, then having a parade in our honor. I was overwhelmed by emotion, as it was the first title of my professional career," said Smertin, 31.

"I've been in the game a long time, but until now I've had very little in terms of trophies to show for it.

"Winning the Russian Cup with Lokomotiv Moscow in 2000 and being crowned first-division champions, gaining promotion to the top flight with Uralan Elista three years earlier -- that's about all the trophies I've had."

Smertin credits Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho with instilling a winning mindset at the west London club. "Since day one, he has been preaching that confidence is a key to achieving success on the pitch," the midfielder said.

"He told us that aside from [Claude] Makelele and Geremi with Real Madrid, [Ricardo] Carvalho and [Paulo] Ferreira with Porto, most of us had not won anything in our careers and that we now have a great chance to win something big with Chelsea.

"Mourinho made us believe in ourselves and in the team."

Smertin's international career has so far not matched up to his club success.

Considered one of soccer's superpowers in Soviet times, the world's largest country has struggled to qualify for the World Cup and European championship in recent years and has not reached the second round at a major tournament since 1988.

Smertin, viewed by many as the heart and soul of Russia's national team, had trouble breaking into the multinational Chelsea lineup, appearing in only 16 of the club's 38 league games last season, often as a late substitute.

Despite his lack of playing time, Smertin said he was happy with his first season at Stamford Bridge.

"No matter what other people might say, I think I had a good season," said the Russian, who spent the 2003-04 season on loan to Premier League rivals Portsmouth.

"I think I have adjusted well to the English game, and I think it should only get better for me," added Smertin, who joined Chelsea from French Ligue 1 club Girondins Bordeaux in August 2003 for ?3.5 million ($5.49 million).

"I made up my mind a long time ago where I want to be next season. I was told that Mourinho has a list of 24 players whom he wants to see on his team next season and that I'm one of them."

Smertin, who has two years left on his Chelsea contract, said he was determined to fight for a starting place.

"I consider myself a first-team player, and I won't be satisfied with just sitting on the bench," he said. "I have great respect for our manager, I trust his decisions and I think he respects me as well. But, just like everyone else, I want to play, and I'm prepared to battle for it."

It was the same determination and perseverance that saw the skinny kid from the industrial Siberian city of Barnaul succeed where other players, oftentimes more physically gifted, failed.

Smertin praised his father for his early lessons in life. "I remember us living in a nine-floor apartment building in Barnaul and my father, an amateur player in his day, forced me to run up and down the stairs to work on my stamina," he recalled.

"He would ride in the elevator all the way to the top, and I had to get there faster than him. I had to do it not just once or twice but several times a day. It was tough."

Smertin said his father -- along with Mourinho and Russia coach Yury Syomin -- had shaped his character on the pitch. "My father taught me early in life that nothing comes easy and I would have to work hard to achieve results," said Smertin, who followed in the footsteps of his elder brother Yevgeny when he signed as a 17-year-old for Dynamo Barnaul in 1992.