After improving Kazan’s performances, Daniil knew that his first summer window was going to be massive for the future of Kazan. Bringing in a handful of more Russian players would give Daniil a bit more freedom when it comes to squad selections for the league, as he is limited to 8 foreigners in the starting 11 and only 12 to be registered throughout the season.
With that being said, Daniil made it a priority to get scouts out to hunt down Russian talent that will improve the squad, and ideally weaken his rivals. Daniil managed to bring in the following Russian reinforcements:
- Vitaly Botnar’ – £5,000,000
- Daniil Utkin – £6,500,000
- Danil Krugovoy – £1,600,000
- Alexandr Silyanov – £5,000,000
Daniil was delighted with the deal to bring Vitaly to the club; the national team’s number two and Akhmat’s number one in the most recent season. Daniil saw this as a win-win as he was then able to move on one of his two foreign first-team goalkeepers and use that spot elsewhere on the park. It was after this deal that Daniil got the bug of stealing from his competition, and that is exactly what he did with Daniil Utkin. Signing from Krasnodar, the central midfielder was going to offer cover in the middle of the park, if not actually push for a starting berth in the two. The previous manager, Yury Krasnozhan, was wrong to sell Utkin in the first instance, as Krasnodar went on to win the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Moving onto defensive reinforcements, Daniil decided to make the Danil Krugovoy deal permanent following his loan spell. Although Krugovoy never stood out during his loan spell, Daniil was keen to ensure that his services were secured for a long season competing in 3 competitions. Alexandr Silyanov completed a move from Olympique Lyonnais, following the departure of Ilya Samoshnikov. The ability to play on either side was a bonus for Daniil, but it was further competition for Dagba which Daniil was keen to bring in.
Danill did, however, dip into the market outside of Russia to secure the services of another up-and-coming Serbian attacker in the form of Jakša Jevtović for a mere £2,100,000. Capable of playing in any of the front line positions, Daniil was delighted to get yet another promising talent in on the cheap. Along with Jevtović, Daniil brought in young Zambian goalkeeper Patrick Phiri on a free transfer, with an eye on the future.
In typical deadline day fashion, despite Daniil being happy with his squad, he was very keen on adding to it should the right player become available. Firstly, arch-rivals Spartak Moscow were having a fight with one of their younger players who was hoping for more opportunities. Although Daniil couldn’t guarantee them opportunities right away, he did offer an exit, and Spartak was forced to let Nikita Matyash go for under a million. But that wasn’t all.
One of Daniil’s first moves as Kazan manager was the enquiry of Dinamo Moscow’s central midfielder Daniil Fomin. After being limited to just 5 substitute appearances for Dinamo this season, Fomin was looking for a way out to continue his international career as Russia’s captain. Not as young as he once was, Daniil was delighted to still bring in a born-winner in the shape of Fomin on his quest to fight on all fronts this season.
UEFA Europa Conference League
Following the disappointing end of last season, and not being able to settle for that Europa League spot, Daniil would see his Kazan side enter the Conference League at the Fourth Qualifying Round, squaring off against FK Ordabasy Shymkent of Kazakhstan. The Kazaks defeated Osijek in the Third Round and Daniil knew that they could not be underestimated at all. However, with a huge game against Lokomotiv Moscow days after the first leg, Daniil elected to go with a rotation defence and midfield 2 to ensure fresh legs for the league game, but keeping the same front four of Jevtović, Roberto, Đilas and Velásquez – hoping for the four players to form formidable partnerships.
With the Kazakhstan minnows brushed aside, Rubin Kazan had the Group Stages to look forward to once again, and on course to accomplish the Second Knockout Round expectation set by the board, and yet another run in Europe that will strengthen further the financial security of the club.
Being in a group consisting of significantly lesser teams, Daniil knew that he could afford to build momentum at the start of the group stage, and then play a rotational side, as and when required for massive league games. The key for Daniil here was to go unbeaten in the group to max out the financial benefits from the group, and after reaching the mid-point of the season, he was certainly on course for achieving that.
Averaging 3.75 goals a game, Daniil knew his side were firing on all cylinders, and that was including his rotational side who racked up an impressive 8-2 aggregate score over Slovan Bratislava. Already in the hat for the next round, Daniil was looking forward to making amends for last season’s exit to the hands of Young Boys, and he felt that this year Kazan could go to the latter stages of this tournament.
Russian Premier League
With last season’s disappointment still a fresh taste, Daniil wanted to be better for the loyal fans. A club longing for success, Daniil felt with his recruitment in the summer, this could be a season for the ages providing he could get the team to click from the get-go.
Putting aside a rather poor training camp in Austria, Kazan ended pre-season with a 2-0 victory over Royal Antwerp the week before a season opener against last season’s rivals – Akhmat. Akhmat pipped Kazan to the sole Europa League spot by a single point, so it was important for Daniil and his boys to lay down a marker in their season opener.
Not only did they lay down a marker, but Kazan also stormed to 9 league wins on the bounce before Krasnodar edged out a 1-0 victory in what can only be described as an appalling advert for Russian football. Daniil knew that it was important to bounce right back, however, CSKA snuck out the back-door of Kazan with all three points – Kazan hitting the woodwork four times in the match whilst CSKA scored with their only two attempts on target.
However, putting these two disappointments to one side, Daniil managed to record his first victory against Dinamo Moscow and a draw, albeit unfortunate, with Zenit, were the highlights of an opening half of the season. Kazan had only managed 1 point from 12 last season against these two seasons, so to improve on that by this stage was a huge psychological boost for the team.
After taking over the side who had played 19 games, they were struggling at the business end of the park. In those 19 games, Kazan only managed to find the back of the net 22 times; Daniil’s Kazan had managed to double that figure in 4 fewer games, whilst conceding fewer goals in the process. Daniil had really managed to turn the club’s fortunes around in 11 months; this Kazan was unrecognisable to the Kazan pundits were used to seeing last season.
Churning out results when it mattered, goals from all over the park & blowing teams away, whilst being wedged between Zenit and Dinamo was a massive accomplishment for a manager that many had thought was a massive risk to hire.
Daniil knew that it was all an uphill battle from this point on. Dinamo and Zenit are beginning to build some steam and momentum of their own to try and push away from the chasing pack. It was up to Daniil to out-smart them and plan ahead. The chase is on. Can Daniil keep his cool?