If you had read the Russian press – and especially the Russian social networks – in the last few days, you would have got the impression that Ralf Rangnick’s work at Lokomotiv Moscow was extremely unpopular.
Most journalists and fans are outraged by the obvious damage the German tactician did to the club, only that he suddenly took the job of interim manager at Manchester United.
As described by Sportbox.ru’s Sergey Kolesnikov, some claim that Rangnick’s tenure was “the greatest scam in Russian football history”.
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Dmitry Selyuk, the provocative agent best known for representing Yaya Toure, compared Rangnick to Ostap Bender, the most famous fictional crook in Russian literature.
Countless jokes and memes have spread widely, causing Lokomotiv to be mercilessly laughed at by rival supporters.
Rangnick is accused of shedding a decent team that was quite functional last season by finishing third in order to qualify for the Europa League while winning the Russian Cup.
But after a major overhaul in the summer, they are 11 points behind leaders Zenit after just 16 games after winning just two of their last nine games. They were beaten 3-1 by Arsenal Tula on Monday.
Rangnick’s first unpopular decision after his appointment in July was to sell midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak against the player’s will. The Polish international was bought by Lokomotiv’s direct rival Krasnodar for just 2.5 million euros in early August and is enjoying a strong season with four goals so far.
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Meanwhile, French midfielder Alexis Beka Beka from Ligue 2 team Caen and Dutch winger Gyrano Kerk from Utrecht were on the list of summer signings, each costing 6 million euros.
Lokomotiv also paid Moscow rivals CSKA large sums for untested midfielders Konstantin Maradishvili and Nair Tiknizyan, as experts noted that Rangnick’s strategy in the transfer market was unnecessarily expensive and risky.
Rangnick made unpopular decisions not only with the game staff.
Marko Nikolic was a popular trainer with locomotive enthusiasts and was generally considered to be a very hard-working and honest manager. However, his future was in doubt from Rangnick’s arrival as his defensive style and lack of high pressing were not suited to the new concepts that were being introduced.
No wonder, then, that the Serb left by mutual agreement at the beginning of October. He has been replaced by Markus Gisdol, who is largely viewed by the Russian media as Rangnicks puppet.
Former Lokomotiv President Nikolay Naumov criticized the appointment: “He’s not a coach, but a secretary. Rangnick doesn’t need someone like that.” [Jose] Mourinho or [Roberto] Mancini, but rather a man who follows his instructions.
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“They came to the club with one goal – to make Lokomotiv a business that buys and sells players. Results are not important to them and they need an anonymous coach who is willing to take a good salary and do what you say.” . “
Now that Rangnick’s departure to United was confirmed, it was widely believed that the entire system he’d brought in would fall apart, leaving Lokomotiv in ruins.
This view seems to be turning out to be wrong, however, as Rangnick’s role and his entire project in Moscow have been completely misunderstood.
For starters, Rangnick has not “left” Lokomotiv despite the fact that he will be in the dugout at Old Trafford on Sunday when Crystal Palace face United – simply because he never had an official job at the club.
Described when he was named the club’s sports and development manager, he was not on Lokomotiv’s payroll and his name never appeared on the club’s official website. Instead, a contract was signed with his agency Rangnick Kornetka Consulting, which made him a kind of freelance consultant.
“The contract is still intact and the project should continue,” Ivan Zhidkov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Sport Den Za Dnem told Goal. “Lars Kornetka, Rangnick’s right-hand man, will continue to work with Lokomotiv on a daily basis and Rangnick himself should have the last word on the most important questions.
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“Rangnick took his work at Lokomotiv very seriously. He brought a whole team of scouting specialists with him who now work for an association that didn’t have a proper scouting department at all before he arrived.
“There are new standards for medical staff and dietitians. The plan is to make the association even more professional and modern.”
Rangnick’s appointment was always made with a long-term perspective, and the strategy of the transfer market, for example, is not – as Naumov claimed – a selling club, but rather to make the club more efficient and at the same time to shine on the pitch.
“According to Rangnick’s philosophy, only ambitious young players who are not over 25 should be signed up,” explains Zhidkov. “Investments should be made in those who want to grow, not veterans whose motivation for the project may be wrong.”
During his time in Russia, Rangnick went to considerable lengths to explain the project. He held a special press conference in the weeks leading up to news of United’s interest in him, but instead of discussing strategy and the future, journalists kept asking the German about Nikolic and Krychowiak, focusing on the past.
He also invited fan movement leaders for a nice chat in a restaurant in October, but it remains unclear whether they were convinced of his methods.
“It is very important to understand that this is a long-term project led by top specialists. It would be ridiculous to judge it by the immediate results, but people do not want to understand that,” Zhidkov continues. “Most journalism in Russia is driven by pure emotion. Most of the analysis is very superficial.
“You can already see that Beka Beka, for example, is making great strides and is a promising footballer at the age of 20. These things take time.”
Rangnick is therefore completely misunderstood in Russia, although the very vague description of his role has not helped his cause.
His job at Lokomotiv has only just started and shouldn’t stop after just four months when Manchester United called. Success or failure should therefore not be measured so quickly.
Russian fans and journalists can only see immediate impressions, however, and former Lokomotiv general director Ilya Gerkus said: “There are three games left in 2021. If the Germans get good results, they will continue. If not.” , they won’t. “
Rangnick is almost certainly facing the same problem in England. While he’s only an interim manager at United, he will inevitably be judged by what is happening on the field, even if the real purpose of his appointment doesn’t begin until the summer.
However, his role as an advisor over the next two seasons is extremely vague – even more so than with Lokomotiv – and as a result, fans and journalists alike are extremely unlikely to be patient with him and trust his process when results are under the coach He helps appoint to be achieved don’t get better.
While Rangnick is definitely not guilty of being “the greatest scammer in Russian football history” and he’s not a crook either, there are lessons from what he’s done at Lokomotiv that Manchester United fans will appreciate in the future should learn for weeks, months and years.