If you have read the Russian press – and especially Russian social media – in recent days, you will get the impression that the work of Ralf Rangnick in Lokomotiv Moscow is extremely unpopular.
Most journalists and fans alike expressed outrage at the obvious damage the German had done to the club, only when he abruptly left to take up the coach’s job. temporarily at Manchester United.
As described by Sergey Kolesnikov on Sportbox.ru, some consider Rangnick’s tenure as “the biggest fraud in the history of Russian football.”
Dmitry Selyuk, the provocative agent best known for representing Yaya Toure, compared Rangnick to Ostap Bender, the most famous fictional con man in Russian literature.
Countless jokes and memes went viral, leaving Lokomotiv mercilessly laughed at by rival supporters.
Rangnick was blamed for knocking out a team that performed fairly consistently last season, finishing third to qualify for the Europa League and winning the Russian Cup.
But after a major overhaul in the summer, they are now 11 points behind leaders Zenit from just 16 matches, winning only two of the last nine. On Monday, they were beaten 3-1 by Arsenal Tula.
Rangnick’s first unpopular decision after his appointment in July was to sell key midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak according to the player’s wishes. The Poland international was bought by Lokomotiv’s direct rival Krasnodar for just €2.5m (£2.1m/$2.8m) in early August and is having a strong season. with four goals scored so far.
Meanwhile, the list of summer signings includes French midfielder Alexis Beka Beka from Ligue 2’s Caen and Dutch winger Gyrano Kerk from Utrecht, both for €6m (5m). pounds / $7 million) per person.
Lokomotiv has also paid rival CSKA huge sums in Moscow to buy unproven midfielders Konstantin Maradishvili and Nair Tiknizyan, as experts say Rangnick’s strategy in the transfer market is both costly and costly. just take the risk.
Not only with the staff, but Rangnick made unpopular decisions.
Marko Nikolic is a popular trainer with Lokomotiv followers, and is generally regarded as a very hardworking and honest manager. However, his future was in doubt from the moment Rangnick arrived, as his defensive play and lack of high pressing did not fit the new concepts being adopted.
It was hardly surprising, then, when the Serbian left with mutual consent in early October. He was replaced by Markus Gisdol, who was seen by the Russian media as Rangnick’s puppet.
Former Lokomotiv chairman Nikolay Naumov criticized the appointment, saying: “He is not a coach, but a secretary. Rangnick does not need someone like him. [Jose] Mourinho or [Roberto] Mancini, but rather a man who will follow his instructions.
“They come to the club with only one goal – to turn Lokomotiv into a player-buying business. The results don’t matter to them, and they need an unknown coach who is willing to take a high salary and do things what they say.”
Now, with Rangnick’s departure from United confirmed, many assume the entire system he brought in will collapse, leaving Lokomotiv in ruins.
Such a view, however, is likely to be proven incorrect, for no other reason than that Rangnick’s role and his entire Moscow project have been completely misunderstood.
First, despite the fact that he will feature at Old Trafford on Sunday when Crystal Palace take on United, Rangnick has yet to “leave” Lokomotiv – simply because he has never had a full-time job at the club right away. from the beginning.
Described upon his appointment as the club’s sporting and development director, he is actually off the payroll of Lokomotiv, and his name has never appeared on the club’s official website. Instead, a contract was signed with his consulting firm Rangnick Kornetka, which essentially made him a freelance consultant.
“The contract is still intact and the project is expected to continue,” Ivan Zhidkov, editor-in-chief of 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 is expected to have the final word on the most important issues.
“Rangnick is extremely serious about his job at Lokomotiv. He brought with him a team of specialist scouts who now work for a club that did not have a proper recruitment department before him. come.
“There are new standards regarding medical staff and nutritionists. The plan is to make the club much more professional and modern.”
The appointment of Rangnick is always done with a long-term perspective, and the transfer market strategy, for example, is not – as Naumov claims – to be a club for sale, but to make the club work. more effective while excelling on the pitch.
Zhidkov explains: “According to Rangnick’s philosophy, only ambitious young players should sign and they should not be older than 25 years old. “Investments should be made in people who want to grow, rather than in veterans who have the wrong motives for the project.”
Rangnick made considerable efforts to explain the project during his time in Russia. He held a special press conference a few weeks before news of United’s interest in him, but instead of discussing strategy and future, journalists repeatedly asked the German about Nikolic and Krychowiak, focusing on the past.
He also invited leaders of fan movements to a friendly chat at a restaurant in October, but it remains unclear if they will be convinced of his method.
“It’s very important to understand that it’s a long-term project, led by top experts. It would be ridiculous to judge it based on immediate results, but people don’t want to understand that. there,” continued Zhidkov. “Most journalism in Russia is driven by pure emotion. Most of the analysis is very shallow.
“Beka Beka, for example, is making significant progress, and at the age of 20 he is a very promising player. These things take time.”
As a result, Rangnick is completely misunderstood in Russia, although it must be said that very vague descriptions of his role have not helped his career.
His job at Lokomotiv had just begun, and it was not expected to end after just four months when Manchester United called. As such, success or failure should not be measured too soon.
However, Russian fans and journalists are only capable of looking at immediate impressions, and former Lokomotiv general manager Ilya Gerkus has stated that, “there are three games left in 2021. If the Germans get the results, they’re going to have to wait until the end of the season. well, they’ll move on. If not, they won’t.”
Rangnick will almost certainly face a similar problem in the UK. Despite being United’s interim manager, he will certainly be judged by what goes on on the pitch, even if the real purpose of his appointment doesn’t begin until the summer.
That said, his role as a mentor over the next two seasons is extremely ambiguous – even more so at Lokomotiv – and as such, it’s hard for fans and journalists alike to be patient with him. him and trust his progress if results under the coach he helped appoint don’t improve.
And so, while Rangnick is certainly not considered “the biggest scam in the history of Russian football,” nor is it a fraud, there are lessons to be learned from what he did at Lokomotiv. that Manchester United fans will learn from in the future. week, month and year.