After an unprecedented 5th place finish in the Russian Premier League, Kuban Krasnodar achieved European qualification this season. Their savvy transfer dealings were a major factor in contributing to their best-ever finish. Unbelievably cheap and quality signings were made, contrasting heavily with Zenit Saint Petersburg’s expensive, yet largely disruptive or ineffective signings of Hulk and Axel Witsel. One major highlight was Aleksei Ionov, who assisted 12 times in the league from 30 appearances. His direct running on the wings and the blistering speed he supplied to Kuban was a major threat, especially on the counter attack. He was acquired from Zenit for a paltry fee of £176,000. He was sold to Anzhi for £4,400,000: a brilliant profit for Kuban. Other transfer highlights are Aras Özbiliz, Charles Kaboré, Ibrahima Baldé, Ivelin Popov and Xandão. (Figures according to http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk)
However, after losing manager Leonid Kuchuk to Lokomotiv Moscow, it seems that the Krasnodar Krai club will struggle to emulate their lofty 5th place finish. Kuban fans, and the neutral observer, will worry that the expansive, counter-attacking style deployed under Kuchuk will be gone under Dorinel Munteanu, who takes over after spending the spring with relegated Mordovia. Losing some of last season’s revelations – Aleksei Ionov to Anzhi and Vladislav Kulik to Rubin – will weaken them considerably. Also, the added stress of European football could cause Kuban to finish in the bottom half of the table. The current squad does not seem to have enough depth. With two Europa League qualifying rounds to be played, Kuban could choose to go out of Europe early. They will participate in the third qualifying round and, if they win, the playoff round. Europe may well be treated as a youth development tournament, and this would be a shame.
The signing of Djibril Cissé looks to be a desperate gamble from Munteanu. The club’s sporting director Sergei Doronenko showed that Cissé lacks no self-belief, with the Frenchman wanting to make the World Cup ahead of stars such as Benzema, Giroud and Remy: “He is full of ambition and plans for this season. Djibril’s main goal is to return to the national team.”
Cissé is well past his best at 31, with his decline physically becoming remarkably apparent at Queens Park Rangers. Harry Redknapp was quick to show how important he felt Cissé was to QPR: “I didn’t ask him [Cissé] to stay. The chief exec said there was an offer to play somewhere. There’s no problem.”
A neutral described the French striker on a forum: “I think they’ve had enough of him playing s***. Possibly their worst signing. He looks like an aged and less talented Balotelli. Kind of like when Middle Ages men believe they can still look as cool as their sons, Cissé looks like he is trying to be like Balotelli.” Cissé received plenty of abuse from disgruntled Hoops fans on Twitter, after QPR lost to West Brom. He responded to fans by tweeting: “You are going to far now i have enought of all of you talking s***.” He still hasn’t learnt how to write English properly, despite spending time with 3 English clubs. It must be mentioned that Cissé received the abuse because he was a disgrace in England. If he didn’t score, he appeared to sulk and look astonishingly disinterested.
One particular low-light in his time in west-London was his sending off against Wolves. He grabbed Roger Johnson’s neck after being on the end of a tackle from behind. His reaction was stupid; even factoring in him previously breaking his leg twice. His sending off caused QPR to lose a crucial game 2-1; causing his relationship with fans to deteriorate. There is a big risk that Cissé will have a negative effect on the Kuban dressing room. He is a very difficult player to handle, one who will need to be nurtured and loved.
While his goal record of 209 in 508 is not abysmal, the goal rate decreases every season. 45 goals in 116 games for the past three seasons is distinctly average. Also, only 3 of the Frenchman’s career goals have been scored with his weaker left foot. Teams should pick up on this and show Cissé down his weaker left side. His wages will also be quite high, with Harry Redknapp citing this as a reason for Cissé departing from England.
Pluses include the fact that the gamble is one which contains no actual transfer fee. Cissé also recently played in the Asian Champions League, with Al-Ghafara. He scored 4 goals and assisted 1. However, this was in a team which is one of the most successful in Qatar. The squad contains ex-PSG playmaker Nené, a man who really helped Cissé score. Kuban’s squad does not contain a Nené-standard creator. One other positive is that Cissé is used to having to adapt to a new league and country. Kuban is his ninth different club in his sixth different country.
The signing of Cissé will either be a masterstroke or a failure. Munteanu cannot afford to make a failure this early in his management of Kuban. It is likely that ‘second season syndrome’ will affect Kuban. Teams will have adapted to Kuchuk’s counter-attacking style. Munteanu will need to tweak Kuban’s style, but he is not convincing. Maybe the Romanian will experiment with a pairing of Baldé and Cissé up front. We shall see against Rubin Kazan on Sunday.
Kuban fans should be very disappointed with the signing of Cissé, he will score a few goals and maybe assist a meagre amount; yet his effect will be largely detrimental and he is often lazy. Neighbours FC Krasnodar look more likely to finish above Kuban, with Sergey Galitsky providing a yearly budget of roughly $100 million. Now wouldn’t that be sickening for the Kazaki?