Presentation of Nicolas Lombaerts to Russian press

Zondag verdedigt Knokke-Heistenaar Nicolas Lombaerts voor het eerst de kleuren van z'n nieuwe ploeg Zenit in Sint-Petersburg. Dat gebeurt tijdens een wedstrijd tegen laatsgeklasseerde Rostov, waar hij z'n debuut maakt als centrale verdediger. "Lombaerts moet die wedstrijd wat makkelijker voor ons maken", zei Zenit-boss Sergey Fursenko. Eerder werd de 22-jarige voetballer voorgesteld aan de Russische pers. Bij die gelegenheid kreeg hij ook z'n Zenit-shirt met Gazprom-sponsoring. Lombaerts koos voor het nummer 6 op z'n shirt, omdat hij dat nummer als kleine jongen droeg in z'n allereerste wedstrijd. Volgende week start onze stadsgenoot met het leren van Russisch. Inmiddels maakt Lombaerts volgens de Pravda indruk op de journalisten omdat hij vloeiend Engels, Frans en "Hollandees" spreekt. Hij beloofde ook om tegen zondag in prima vorm te zijn.

Het interview met de Russische pers:

Sergey Fursenko: I’m glad to welcome you here again. Today we present our new player - the central defender Nicolas Lombaerts. He was a central defender of the Belgium club Gent and Captain of the Youth Squad in Belgian Championship. I invite you to greet Nicolas in our club! As always I’d like to start presentation with presenting Nicolas the club’s jersey.

Nicolas Lombaerts: Thank you.

Could you please tell about the playing qualities that attracted you in Nicolas? As far as I understand you saw him in the National and European Youth Championships. Which of his playing qualities showed you that he is a necessary asset to Zenit?

Dick Advocaat: of the reasons he got our attention was that he was the best player in Holland in the European Youth Championship. He is a talented player who’s only 22 y.o. And we know that some other clubs were very much interested in buying him. As soon as we knew about it, we started negotiations with him and now we are happy to see him in our club. He is a central defender; he also can play a left back. He can pass the ball. He can defend as well, that’s why we bought him. But he’s also ready to make his input so that that his new team won the championship. The Russian Championship is more serious than championship in Belgium. But Nicolas showed he can play for Zenit by having played all matches for his team in the national championship. So we are very happy that he is one of the Zenit players now.
Will Nicolas be able to play with FC Rostov on 15 July? Will he be the only player Zenit buys for this season or should we expect more newcomers?

SF: Executive Committee Meeting of the Russian Football Union finished an hour ago and it was decided to prolong the transfer period from 12 July to 31 August. Nicolas can play with Rostov which will make our situation in this match easier. As for today he’s the only new player we’ve signed in. What will happen in the next month and a half is difficult to say now.

FC Zenit President introduced you as a central defender, but in Gent you played as a left defender. What position you personally prefer? And in the Belgian championship you’ve received only two yellow cards. Does that mean that you are such a clean player?

NL: I think my position is in central defence. But for two or three years in Gent I played on left back. And it will be no problem for me to play there. I don’t know if I am a clean player. It might be a coincidence. But I don’t discuss a lot with the referees, may be that’s why I don’t get many yellow cards.

Was number 6 on the jersey picked by you, and if it was your choice, why did you choose it?

NL: I don’t know that this was a big deal here. As a boy I played my first game as a number 6. And I also played as a number 6 for three years in Gent as well as in the last European Championship. That’s why I’m glad that I can continue playing in Zenit with this number.

Is the new defender planned as a substitute to Hagen, Krizanac or Skrtel?

DA: First of all we’ve acquired a central defender. But the level of the competition is high and as a player of the squad he will have to fight for the place in the starting list just as everybody else. But in general he’ll play in central defence.

Is it a new selection policy that FC Zenit prefers young players or is it a coincidence?

SF: We prefer to have reliable players; however the squad has to have a future. All our recent contracts are for 4 years. No doubt we’ll attract more young players as the future belongs to the young. And we watch closely our reserve squad where there is a number of very promising players.

Do you prefer to work with experienced or younger players?

DA: The age doesn’t matter much, it’s the quality. But for the club having young players who show result, like Skrtel, is better. So it’s always a combination of youth and experience. And Nicolas played for two years in all matches with his former squad, so he’s got both.

We all are worried how Zenit will play on Sunday. One position will be solved by Nicolas. But what about the rest? Are you planning to invite players from the reserve team or how will you solve the problem?

DA: To solve the defence problem I and Mr. Fursenko will play in the center. So nobody will come in between (laughing) I was quite surprised with the match in Moscow. I was quite surprised that five players of our team who had 3 yellow cards got the fourth card. Probably the referee knew that these players had already received three cards each, whereas those players who had 1 or 2 yellow cards didn’t receive more during this game. But again to lose five players, five defenders is difficult but we still have four days to make a decision what we have to do. We already have one player and the rest we have to solve.

Before coming to St. Petersburg did you watch Zenit matches and did you meet any of the players already.

NL: I didn’t know much about this team. But I looked in the Internet before I came here. Also when I arrived on the sports channel I watched some games with Zenit. That’s because there is not so much attention paid to Zenit in Belgium although Russian championship can be of interest in Belgium and Europe. But probably now we’ll see some Belgium press coming here and it will increase interest to the Russian football.

Would you prefer to lose all your defenders before the match with Rostov or a match with Spartak?

DA: Every game is important for us. And the players go to play without keeping in mind whether they should or shouldn’t get a yellow card.

What game is more important to you?

DA: The game with Rostov - it’s the next game.

You said that Russian Championship is more challenging than the one in Belgium. Having said that what qualities does Nicolas need to develop?

DA: We know that he received offers from Holland and Germany. But for us it’s very important we can have a young player. Before that we tended to buy more experienced older players. But it’s important to get young talented players. Like Skrtel.

How often did you play on the artificial turf and are you aware that the match after the next will be played on such?

NL: I trained a lot on the artificial turf when we played in Bruges. So I’m used to it. Also in Gents we trained on it sometimes. So I think it will be no problem for me to play on it.

Have you got enough rest after the Belgium championship and do you feel physically fit to come to the pitch on Sunday?

NL: I had some rest. I went on holidays. It was just perfect for two weeks. Besides I have a few more days here to get a good shape. So I believe I’ll be in a good shape on Sunday.

Were negotiations with Nicolas difficult. Are you as a president satisfied with the result?

SF: First all I am satisfied with this deal as a president. Negotiations went normal and you can see the result.

Is there currently a task from the coaching staff to the selection office? If yes, what positions need to be fortified?

DA: Not at the moment. As I have said before, we have a strong squad of 20 very good players. So there is no reason to buy more. But if we see a strong player we’ll consider him.

There was a time when asked, what they knew about Russia, foreigners could name vodka, caviar, sputnik, and probably ballet. What did you know about Russia and Russian football when you came here?

NL: I had history classes in Belgium, so I knew a lot about it. I understood the sputnik, and I also know who’s Jury Gagarin and Peter the Great. As for the football, I knew that CSKA played in the final of the UEFA Cup, and that St. Petersburg played in the quarter final. So I think that the level of the competition in Russia is high. We don’t want to talk about the sum of the transfer. Besides, everybody knows it already from the press.

Is there another player in the Belgium championship with the equal contract? Did you know something about our club when you played in Belgium?

NL: I don’t know, probably not in the Belgium Championship, but there are definitely other Belgian players who earn more than I do. I’m not the biggest earner in Belgium. I heard about this team before but not so much, as our press doesn’t pay much attention to the Russian competitions. And I think it’s a pity. Hopefully there will be more attention soon. While you were in the Belgium league, you were under constant attention of the national squad and youth squad in Belgium.

Aren’t you afraid to get lost in Russia?

NL: No, I’m not afraid, if they are interested, they can come here. And it will be a beautiful trip. If they can come to Katar, they certainly can come to St. Petersburg. And I will invite them, and sure they will like it, because it’s also a beautiful city.

How would you evaluate Zenit performance in the first round of the Championship? Do you agree that Zenit had to have played better?

SF: First of all we are satisfied with the current position of the team in the overall rating. In winter when we acquired four excellent players we were aware that some time will be needed for them to get used to playing together. If we had bought less outstanding players, less time would have been needed. Each player is a bright personality and I’m glad to see that the first stage is over and the team starts moving ahead. So in general we are satisfied with the first half of the season.

You told that negotiations with Nocolas went normal. Is it more difficult for Zenit to negotiate, as sellers know that FC Zenit is supported by Gazprom? And Mr Advocaat skipped answering this question, however, could you please tell what other players will bought in this season. What positions have to be strengthened?

SF: I am confident, that the first violin in the decision making process is played by the head coach. As for Gazprom group support, it brings some positive and some negative effects in the process. Obviously those who are selling the player try to negotiate a better deal. But we try to pin point our selection process by choosing only those players who are needed here. And we achieve results, as you can see. For the third transfer window our selection is considered best. As for Gazprom, the company set ambitions goals for the squad and I think we will achieve them. Today the situation is that Skrtel becomes central defender.

Don’t you think that it would be better to have a more experienced player on this position?

DA: We talk a lot about the defenders, but we don’t mention that we scored the most in the championship. If you score a goal more than miss it’s a success. Even if the other team scores 99 goals and we score 100 it’s a win. It’s not only a defence, but it’s the whole team that makes a difference. We bought Nicolas because we had a chance to buy a good player in the defence. And that’s what we did. In the last matches Anukov played on Kim Dong Jin’s position.

What will be his role? And what are his perspectives?

DA: Left full back.

One will have sit on the bench. Who will that be?

DA: You’ll see. It’s not 11 players that make a team; all players might have to sit on the bench. They get the same bonus for the win as those who played. That shows them how important they are. Although players on the bench often feel themselves a bit off the game. Of course as coaches we understand that they all want to play.

Did you learn some Russian in these four days?

NL: Not yet. Everything went so quickly. I didn’t have a chance to buy a Russian book. But my father has already bought it for me. So in a week it’ll be here and I will start.

How does stadium construction proceed? Are you satisfied with the process? How are things proceeding with the new training base?

SF: As for the stadium, regular meetings with Zenit management, city administration and construction company are held. We always want something better, but in general the process is going smoothly. As for the training base, we soon have to sign a contract on the land and after that the process will go much faster.

Do you think the second round will be easier or more difficult for the squad. From one side, the fight for medals will be at full swing, from another side as you have mentioned the squad got more experienced playing together.

DA: I think it will be harder, but I also think that the team will play better. In my opinion, we’ll play better in the second half that in the first half.

What lodging in St. Petersburg will you prefer? Other players either rent a house, or an apartment, or prefer to stay in this wonderful hotel.

NL: At the moment I still live in the hotel. I’d like to find an apartment as my girlfriend will not have to clean so much, and I want her to feel comfortable. But I believe that in a week or two we’ll find a good place to live.

You’ve signed a 4-year contract with Zenit. Do you think it’s a risk as such a long contract might prohibit you from transferring to a big European club?

NL: Zenit gave me confidence. I don’t look that far in the future. And I will try to succeed here, by winning awards in the Russian championship for a start. I don’t look for another club. And maybe in four years Zenit, St. Petersburg will be as big as Chelsea or Real Madrid. Who knows...

SF: First of all I’d like to say that we are building this club seriously. That’s why we also need confidence that our players stay with us for a longer period of time. As for our tactics, we organize a competition inside the team for each position. Some players can’t handle that and leave, here we can’t help them. The others improve. As for Tekke, I’d like to argue all rumors about him. He is interested in playing in Zenit. We met a number of times and he never expressed a desire to leave. He wants the atmosphere inside the team to improve, and it has already. The relations between players are very positive and I believe that in the nearest future no one would want to leave the club. Sochi will host the next Olympic Games.

Can it happen that Gazprom will be offered to cut Zenit's budget to sponsor the Olympics? And as an experienced manager will you have to be involved in the race for the 2020 Olympics in St. Petersburg?

SF: FC Zenit has got stock holders who determine the policy of the club. We hold board meetings with major sponsors of the club. And the goals set for us are to make a successful club of the European level by adding to the fame of the Russian football. As for the Olympic Games – it’s not in our competence. There committees that specialize in the organization of the Games. From our side we’ll try to prepare Russian players for the major competitions. And that’s what we pay a great deal of attention in our club. However without creating a situation of competition between Russian and European players we won’t achieve much in terms of bringing up the generation of serious Russian players, I can assure you. I’d like to draw your attention that we have a lot of promising young players. I highly recommend you to visit matches of our reserve team.

There is a number of promising players who might soon make a valuable asset to the main squad. What was the most difficult part in the first round?

DA: Everybody expects that if you bring in the new player, he needs to show the results immediately, before he can even adapt. So in our case in the first round the results couldn’t have been better than they were. For example Dominguez had to see what we are, how we train, how we play. But now all players train well and are ready to play. Although, according to your writing we don’t play every game so well we are still on the first place. They don’t give us scores just like that. Think about it.

Was there a game in the first round you liked the most?

DA: We play stronger with every match. So I liked the last game most.

Not so long ago European players didn’t want to play in the Russian championship.

SF: The situation changes slowly. I remember how a year ago we negotiated with Lukareli. But the local fans simply didn’t let him go. However now Lukareli is dreaming to play in Russia, and I’m sure we’ll see him soon in out championship. The situation is changing: as more strong players come to Russia, the more attractive Russian championship becomes for foreigners. I am absolutely sure that in a few years Russian championship will be one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in Europe.

Are you planning to continue your work at FC Zenit after the season is over?

DA: As I have told you before, all decisions will be done at the end of the season. Because you get the prize at the end of the season, not in the middle.

SF: A moment of your attention, please. It was a year ago that Dick Advocaat came to St. Petersburg to work as a head coach for Zenit. I would like to thank Mr. Advokaat for his work, express our hope that he’ll stay with us and would like to present him a small souvenir.