Zenit defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy – about Euro 2020, the Ukrainian national football team, Zenit, Dzyuba, Semak and his future


Zenit defender Yaroslav Rakitsky told the “Championship” how he rooted for the Ukrainian national team at Euro 2020, about Zenit’s youth, failures in the Champions League and his future.

“I want to play for Ukraine! And I would play … “

– The Ukrainian national team at Euro 2020 amazed many. Quarterfinals – the objective strength of the team or was it luck?
– Luck was present when leaving the group. And already with the Swedes they showed good football. Could have led even before removal, no one was closed. We played great with the Dutch too. The Macedonians were completely outplayed. We are tired of Austria. I understand guys, more than a month in the national team, and psychology at such moments is very vulnerable. I would like to see the family. But the boys are great fellows anyway. And with England they could just play beautiful football. Better the score would be 4: 1, 4: 2 … But maybe they burned out.

– Also a quick goal.
– Yes, he always breaks. And without that the guys were worried, and then they got it already in the third minute. It was necessary to score, but it was in my thoughts that they would miss more. By the way, I do not think that England are tactical beasts in this tournament. You could and should have played against them. But in any case, our team is great, I hope it will only get better.

– Malinovsky and Zinchenko were criticized during the tournament. Fair?
– Malina had problems with her back, she recently had an operation. Played through pain, a real man. Yarmolu (Andrey Yarmolenko. – Approx. “Championship”) were pursued by injuries, but with his game he closed their mouths to all of them. He is the leader of the national team. Zina held a worthy tournament. You can do better, but there is always room to strive for.

– When I looked at the boys, did you imagine yourself in this team? Or did the story end in 2019?
“You know that I’ve always expected a challenge. But Shevchenko with Pavelko (Andriy Pavelko – President of the Ukrainian Football Association. – Approx. “Championship”) everything was decided. Of course I want to play. And I would play! Yes, maybe I didn’t sing the anthem there, but there are objective reasons for this. And this does not mean that I am not a patriot of my country. I love Ukraine. And when I played in the national team, I gave all my strength for this shirt. And individuals have come up with all sorts of nonsense about me. But I don’t care what they think.

– Does it hurt deep down?
– Yes. Every time I look at the boys, I really want to join them on the field. I don’t like watching TV at all, I like to play. But this is life. No longer will it change what happened. I finished my career in the national team. Let’s close this topic on the sly.

– Last thing. Has Shevchenko ever got in touch with you?
– No.

– Is it insulting?
– Yes. But I understand what happened. Everything came from the leaders of the federation. They told everyone, including Shevchenko. I was not included several times on the list. And I thought, why should I wait for the call further? I’d better leave myself.

“People are driven by fear.” Why there are no players from Russia in the Ukrainian team

– I heard the theory that Shevchenko at this Euro really needed a match with Italy to show himself and lead Milan. what do you think about it?
– There you could show, but you could not show. And would the doors close? Hardly.

– But he will lead Milan in the future?
– I think yes.

– Another detail of this Euro is the harsh criticism of the players of the Ukrainian national team for speaking Russian after the matches. what do you think about it?
– What’s the big deal? I can not understand.

– This is absolutely normal. But on social media, journalists and writers raised a wave of negativity.
– It’s up to the players to go out, play and please the country. Someone said that in nine months there will be a surge in the birth rate in Ukraine. We must strive for this and be happy for the guys. It doesn’t matter what language you speak.

– What can you say about comparisons between Russia and Ukraine? When we dropped out of the group, and you reached the quarterfinals, Russia began to criticize even more.
– Your press criticizes everyone: both the national team and the clubs. I have never seen anyone say good things. Even at the World Championships, they were looking for a catch. Better to be silent. Sofa experts, bloggers are scary people. I do not understand them. I don’t understand why we need to compare the national teams of Russia and Ukraine. Different style and footballers. Today Ukraine is stronger. So I don’t play for the national team yet!

– Ukraine is a globally young team. Does she have a powerful future?
– Yes. You said yourself that there are many young people. Give them a year or two, they will be even better.

– Are you in touch with the guys?
– More in correspondence – with Konoplyanka, Pyatov. Zinchenko congratulated on a good result.

“Dziuba is always everyone’s fault”

– The Russian nationals worked with the team at Gazprom, a training camp in Austria. Do you feel they have already moved away from that failure? Or do you feel that it is still sitting in them?
– I do not know. I did not talk to them about this. They are adults, professionals. We must leave that in the past and move on to club work. There is a long road ahead and big tasks.

– Many in Russia made two people guilty – Cherchesov and Dziuba. They are the main villains. How do you feel about this?
– And Dziuba is always guilty for everyone. If he scored, he’s to blame, if he didn’t score, he was also bad. What to say about such critics? People who have never run in a circle, have not touched the ball, will tell Artyom how to live and run. And how to train Cherchesov (the conversation took place before the dismissal of the head coach. – Approx. “Championship”). These same people will never say anything to their eyes. They will only write on social networks.

– Is Artyom okay now?
– Yes. In a normal state and in a good mood. Runs better than some young ones.

– Will he be able to beat Kerzhakov’s record for the number of goals for the national team with a new coach?
– Of course he will. With a new coach, without a coach, he will beat!

Dziuba fought hard, and Golovin ran. It was difficult, but we found something good in the game of Russia
Dziuba fought hard, and Golovin ran. It was difficult, but we found something good in the game of Russia

– Will Zhirkov manage to become the oldest player in the history of all national teams in the world?
– Valentine is a legend! If not for the injury, I would say yes. Now he will recover and let him decide whether he is tired of football. For example, I don’t like to train, everyone knows that. I like to play. Emotions, tribunes are happiness. If Yura still has it, we must continue.

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– Zhirkov also does not like to train very much.
– And he doesn’t need to train.

– Are you waiting for him?
– Sure. Always glad to see him.

– This time, together with Zenit, a lot of young people went to train. How do you like their level? And do you feel that the distance between you is getting bigger?
– By the way, no. It doesn’t matter to me at all who is standing in front of me. This has been since the days of Shakhtar. Lucescu didn’t care how old you are. You have to fight on the field. And today’s youth …

– Don’t fight?
– Someone – yes, someone – no. There are always exceptions.

– For example?
– Kravtsov. This is a man. God forbid to play in the first team.

– Zenit wins in the youth leagues. Is this a signal that a strong generation of Russian players can be expected, or is it still difficult for the young to break through, in your opinion?
– This is a positive signal, the main thing is to immediately prepare them for the first team, so that they are not afraid of competition and are ready for it.

Photo: Dmitry Golubovich, “Championship”

– What is the difference between you young and today’s young?
– We had a different way of life. Remember our childhood – we kicked the ball and went to the river with my grandfather. And you can’t drive them out of the house. And if you kick it out into the yard, they won’t even understand what it is.

– Do you, as an experienced player, have fears that the limit could destroy them too? They will receive a bold contract and progress will stop.
– I’m against the limit, but it all depends on the person. And out of love for this business. Well, you will get 2-3 years of the contract, and then – a kick in the ass.

Top coaches in Russia break the limit. Will the national team be better without him?
Top coaches in Russia break the limit. Will the national team be better without him?

“This will be the toughest season of all years.”

– Ahead is your fourth season in St. Petersburg. And the third is full. And all three times Zenit took the title in the championship without obvious difficulties. Are there any circumstances this season that could prevent you from winning your fourth trophy?
– There are always enough circumstances. The teams know how we play. The rivals are getting stronger. But let’s see. This will be the most difficult season in all these years. Everyone wants to remove Zenit. Muscovites are embittered, Spartak will be 100 years old. Lokomotiv, Krasnodar will catch up. Dynamo has a good team.

– For all the time that you have been in the team, do you feel that Zenit is getting better? That Semak is progressing as a coach and, in general, is the correct movement forward?
– The number of trophies speaks volumes. But we must look ahead. We have already forgotten about the past. I really want to win this championship. I would like to play well in the Champions League – to show my football. Better to lose, but not be afraid.

– In the course of last season, information appeared that you, Ozdoev and Dziuba were draining Semak. What is your reaction?
– I wanted to see this person (in the original a harsh word was used. – Approx. “Championship”) in the eyes. Give a blooper, make a stripe. I don’t know where it comes from.

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– How would you describe your relationship with the head coach? Is it just a coach-football player, or, due to your experience, is it perhaps more of a friendly relationship?
– No companionship. I always adhere to the chain of command. Every team has some working moments or misunderstandings. But we are adults, we decide everything at once. I could be rude, but I will quickly apologize. We are not silent, but talking. Therefore, the atmosphere is normal. We are all together and always talk.

– Lately, you don’t score from free kicks so often. What is the reason for this?
– And I asked Tymoshchuk: “If only, why am I not hitting?” He said that it is better to let Lovren do it. No questions asked. I will not argue. If a person hits well, let him score. The main thing is that the team wins. And there will still be a holiday on my street. I’ll score, don’t worry.

– At the training camp without Lovren in the center, you played with Chistyakov. Are you comfortable with him?
– Yes very good.

– Can he put Lovren in prison?
– He can jail me too. The decision is up to the coaching staff.

“The management promised an extension, but there was no specific conversation.”

– Champions League. Do you understand how to make sure that Zenit is in the playoffs at the end of the fall? And is there any additional responsibility in the team because of this?
– Let’s see who gets caught. We will analyze all the commands. Our main problem is playing with large teams. If we show our football: attacking, aggressive, everything can work out.

– Do not really understand. Still grown men with experience. What prevents to show it?
– Therefore, we must deal with this. Maybe it’s also a matter of concentration. But we got a negative experience, and it is perceived best of all. We need to get high on football. I think everything will be fine.

Photo: Dmitry Golubovich, “Championship”

– Your attitude to the fact that after the departure from European competitions, many begin to accuse Semak: an outdated coach, afraid and so on.
“I don’t understand that at all. The team is losing: me, Dzyuba, Semak, the rest. We are all responsible for the result.

– With the current squad, Zenit is able to reach the playoffs? Or is amplification necessary?
– Under the power. We are doing well, in the attack there are generally two people per position. So the clip is normal, you need to find your game. The main thing is that everyone is healthy.

– Your contract is valid until the summer of 2022. Have you already started negotiations?

– The management first promised me an extension. But there was no specific conversation. I’m not a little boy. I will play this season and make a decision about my future at the end. There are teams that want to see me. Nobody knows what will happen next.

– That is, there are no negotiations?
– No. Perhaps we will only talk about something closer to winter.

– But you are happy in St. Petersburg and Leningrad region?
– Yes, I really like it here.

– Do you think to stay here after your career?

– No. I am Ukrainian, everything is Ukrainian. The weather in my homeland is certainly more pleasant than in St. Petersburg. In Kiev, it is more stable.

– In general, until how old would you like to play?
– Up to 35. Then I will go to coaching courses. I want to stay in football.

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