Dmitri Alenichev will always be part of the hall-of-fame of Russian football. The former talented midfielder still is the only Russian footballer ever to have lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy and one of the three Russian players that managed to score goals at two consecutive UEFA Cup finals.
Dmitri Alenichev – The Player
Alenichev had what one may call a very interesting and intense career. He started to play top-flight football at Lokomotiv Moscow but just three years after his arrival at the Russian capital, he joined the club that will always be part of him: Spartak Moscow.
By the hand of the charismatic Russian head coach, Oleg Romantsev, Alenichev developed a lot as a player over his four year stint (from 1994 to 1998) at Spartak. His amazing performances back then caught the attention of some major European football teams and in 1998 he joined the Italian Serie A to play for AS Roma. His Italian experience was, however, somewhat disappointing. Alenichev was rated as a foreign flop and he never managed to impose himself at AS Roma and, for that reason, he left on loan to Perugia in 1999.
Alenichev was fed up with Serie A and did not hesitate when FC Porto offered him an escape route in 2000. The Russian footballer joined the current Portuguese champions and he immediately became one of their most influential players. When José Mourinho arrived at the club, Alenichev soon became one of his favourite players, and even though he was not part of the team’s starting line-up all the time, the Russian midfielder was of paramount importance to the Portuguese side. Alenichev probably enjoyed the best moments of his footballing career at FC Porto, where he lifted several domestic and international trophies.
He stayed with FC Porto for four years and after that period he asked the team’s board to move to Spartak Moscow once again and his wish was immediately granted. His second stint at the Muscovite club of his heart didn’t go as planned and after publicly criticizing Aleksandr Starkovs, the team’s head coach back in those days, he left the club and he hung up his boots for good in 2006 at the age of 33.
Dmitri Alenichev – The Manager
Back then, when Dmitri Alenichev put an end to his prolific footballer career, no one would have imagined that that small and flamboyant midfielder would become the quality head coach he is today.
After a disappointing experience at the Russian Under-18 Youth Squad, in 2011 Alenichev joined a modest team from the Tula Oblast (120 miles south of Moscow) called FC Arsenal Tula. Alenichev’s winning mentality was a breath of fresh air for this modest amateur club.
After Alenichev’s arrival, the former midfielder invited some of his old friends from his Spartak Moscow times to play amateur football. Players such as Yegor Titov, Vadim Yevseev, Yuriy Kovtun, Dmitriy Khlestov, Vladimir Beschastnykh, and the keeper Aleksandr Filimonov joined him at the start of his new adventure and their experience and charisma paid off, considering that the team was promoted to the third tier of Russian professional football. All of them, with the exception of Aleksandr Filimonov, left the club in the summer of 2012, but the success of FC Arsenal Tula endured. Last season, they secured a promotion to the Russian second tier and their campaign this term has been somewhat spectacular. They won seven of their first nine matches and they managed to remain undefeated for quite some time.
Alenichev is seen by pundits as a talented head coach with very interesting game philosophies. When he arrived at the team, Alenichev immediately adopted the same game style that he had learned at Spartak Moscow back in the mid 1990s. He is clearly following his mentor’s (Oleg Romantsev) style. He adopted the method that Alexander Mostovoi once labelled as Spartak’s tiki-taka, an approach that is much more concerned with the aesthetics of the game, based on short passing, game control and speed of thought.
In a recent interview, Alenichev explained his team’s approach to matches:
“We want to play the Spartak football,” (…) “Of course, we can’t replicate the great Spartak side of the 90s, but it is possible to play well even with our squad. We succeed sometimes, and the players are enjoying themselves. We are playing the game that pleases spectators. That’s the way it should be, even if we will lose sometimes. The players will get pleasure even in the games they lost. When you love what you are doing, the results will come.”
Dmitri Alenichev’s ambition is to take the helm of Spartak Moscow one day. While he is waiting to achieve his dream, he continues to develop as a head coach and he keeps putting into practice what he has learned from working with some of the best football managers in the World – José Mourinho, Fabio Capello and Oleg Romantsev. The future looks bright for him and maybe one day, when people sit down to talk about Dmitri Alenichev, they will be talking about the great manager he once was.