With a World Cup to scout, Daniil knew that his patience was going to be tested by some of the European giants for his talented players. But this competition also gave Daniil a new opportunity. He was able to scout potential transfers to see how they would adapt away from their respective clubs and if their performance would hinder.
Portugal would go on to win the final at the Camp Nou against England on penalties, but Daniil was particularly interested in how his Russian crop of players got on along with Velásquez and Gajović. The Kazan select all exited the competition at the Quarter Finals; Russia losing 2-1 to France, Colombia losing 1-0 to their South American rivals Ecuador, and Serbia losing to Portugal on penalties.
In terms of Kazan performances, Daniil Fomin, Danil Krugovoy and Alexandr Silyanov were all taken to the finals and made appearances. Fomin’s tournament ended with an injury during Russia’s Second Round 1-0 victory over Turkey, and the midfielder managed a goal and an assist in his 3 appearances. Krugovoy featured in both group wins over Guinea (5-2) and America (2-0), and earned a well-earned rest for the game against Turkey, where he was replaced by Silyanov. Krugovoy then came back into the fold for an impressive 2-0 win over Belgium but was on the bench for the French defeat, where Silyanov played the 90.
Gajović bagged himself 4 appearances at the finals and managed to get one assist, which was impressive given his young age of 21. But it was the inspired performances of the young Colombian Velásquez that stole the show. He made 3 appearances and grabbed 3 goals and an assist, which was certainly going to attract some interest to give Daniil a headache.
With the World Cup finished, Daniil had his eyes on a couple of players, but was priced out of deals due to bigger interest elsewhere – this was going to be a problem for as long as Russia was out of the top 5 in Europe, and something that needed to change this season. However, following the world cup, Daniil did manage to bring in four players that were going to both strengthen the squad and replace players that had left, along with one internal promotion from the academy that was looking more and more promising as the months went by.
Liverpool announced their intentions to break up the Rubin Kazan party early on, as they met Esdras Girón’s release clause of £12 million before Arsenal agreed on a deal worth £7 million for Brazilian Matheus Eduardo. Daniil couldn’t stand in the way of Matheus Eduardo following that sort of offer, especially given it was going to be pure profit.
Madaev was signed as additional cover at CB, and despite being 20 years of age, Daniil was happy to bring in someone that looked like they have a lot of potential in the years to come. Signed from Dinamo-2 Moscow for a fee of £7 million, rising to £10.75 million due to the home-grown tax, Daniil was delighted to get him in now and give him first-team exposure.
Russia’s number 1 goalkeeper signed from Al-Hilal for £5.5 million, and Daniil was delighted to have two good goalkeepers at his disposal, despite meaning he was going to upset one over game-time. Botnar’ was solid for Daniil last season, but having a more natural sweeper-keeper in Safonov, he was going to be crucial for Daniil as he looks to retain the title. On the subject of goalkeepers, with the arrival of Safonov Patrick Phiri was falling down the pecking order. Being so young and talented, it wasn’t fair on him to rot away for a season; Daniil was looking to cash in on the African and he brought in Svinov as the emergency backup. Not a terrifically great goalkeeper, but Daniil knew that he was not going to use up any foreign spaces and was rarely going to be called upon. Svinov immediately went back out on loan to Alania until the end of the season as Phiri was still around for the time being.
Siyanda Chauke was a free agent due to his contract expiring with the Sundowns, and immediately offers depth down the left-hand side. Daniil knew that he was going to be of a more attacking threat than a defensive threat, but with Abner Vinicius struggling with competition, it was always good to bring in another body to push his starting 11 further. Speaking of pushing his players further, Timur Sagitov was really making Daniil take notice. At the fine age of 16 last year, Sagitov went out on loan to Daniil’s former club SKA-Khabarovsk and his qualities shone through, it was only fair that he was deserving of a chance in and around the first team. Perhaps not ready to make the jump fully yet, Daniil was delighted to have him learning from Velásquez during pre-season, and when the opportunity arose to loan him out to the First Division, Daniil had to take it.
With most of his dealings done, Daniil had to shift focus onto a very quick pre-season, which also had the small matter of a Russian Super Cup involved as well. Last year’s winners Zenit St Petersburg were going to showdown with Kazan in Rostov for the trophy, and it was going to be a game to remember.
In what was his final game for the club, Matheus Eduardo came off the bench with 20 minutes to play and stole the game right from underneath Zenit’s nose. With a goal with his 2nd touch and an assist, it was no wonder Premier League clubs were sniffing around the Brazilian; alas it was his final contribution in a Kazan shirt, and Daniil was going to be forever grateful. With all the top flight cups ticked off his list now, Daniil had just about won the lot in Russia.
However, for Daniil, it was not all plain sailing after winning the Super Cup, the arrival of his four transfers and losing Girón. Despite the continuous interest in Velásquez, nothing ever materialised from it, until it was too late. On the day of the Champions League registrations, Bayern Munich had confirmed the deal for Velásquez after meeting his release clause of £22 million. Daniil was in a panic. His main talisman had left the club, and there was no immediate answer at the club.
The Velásquez money was immediately reinvested back into the side with £7.5 million of it going back out on Italian youngster Addessi. A very well rounded youngster playing with Lazio’s youth and not getting a chance, Daniil felt that he was ready to make the step up to first-team football and Kazan could give him that sort of platform to showcase his abilities. However, when he first joined he was injured, which is why Daniil was happy to pay £62K compensation on Baránek as an immediate answer for the league, whilst Addessi worked on his fitness. Daoudi completed the transfer dealings for Daniil for £4.2 million and was loaned back out to Wydad Casablanca for the remainder of the season due to numbers in defence.
Daniil’s concern was now navigating the group stages of the Champions League without a recognised striker – it was going to be a mammoth task to perform at this stage, but not impossible…
UEFA Champions League
Entering the Group Stages as Russia’s first seeded team was a blessing for Daniil as he knew that he was going to avoid some of Europe’s elite clubs. This was always going to work in the Russian’s favour, especially as he eyed a Europa League spot, potentially sneaking into the Knockouts. But at this level, any group was going t be a difficult task.
And Daniil was still looking at this group thinking progression was certainly possible; he knew it was going to be a straight shootout with Monaco for 2nd place. It was always going to boil down to nerves, and it made for one of the most exciting groups in the Champions League.
An opening night victory over Monaco was the perfect start for Daniil as he thought that this was going to be the benchmark for the game against Olympiacos, but after falling apart in the second half there was just no salvaging a result at all – despite outperforming the Greek’s on xG. This then led to the doubleheader against Internazionale, and a proud performance in the Giuseppe Meazza gave Daniil and Kazan belief that a result could be on the cards in Russia.
An emphatic performance on the night sealed the 3 points for Kazan, and put their own destiny in their own hands. Travelling to Monaco for the second last game, knowing that a victory would see them through to the knockouts, Daniil was fired up for this game, and so were his boys. They huffed and puffed, hoping to find a way through the French side, but it wasn’t to be as Heung-Min Son hit Kazan on the counter and provided Anderson with a tap-in to give Monaco complete control.
One game left. Monaco ahead by a point. All they had to do was win and they would be through. But it would have required a victory in Italy.
Unfortunately for Monaco, Internazionale stood firm and held the French to a 0-0 draw that would see Kazan leapfrog into second place and into the Round of 32; where they could face off against a familiar face who plays for Arsenal…
Russian Premier League
Daniil knew that he was going to be facing the backlash of both Dinamo and Zenit following the surprise title win last season, and had to make sure he got off to a flying start. The media didn’t fancy Kazan’s chances at retaining the title, piping Dinamo ahead of Zenit to take the title back. But Daniil was going to use this as the principle of his team talks. He knew his side were good enough to retain the league. As pre-season neared its ending, the league fixtures were announced, and both his rivals were going to be 13th and 15th respectively in the fixture list; Daniil was delighted to have them so late on in the scheduling as it would give him time to ensure a run of form before the games.
With 3 more Moscow clubs joining the league this season in the shape of Torpedo, Veles and Strogino, Daniil was considering asking the board if they would be willing to buy over a training facility close to Moscow to save on the travelling costs.
An opening day victory against Veles and then a salvaged draw against Krasnodar was enough to get the fire in the bellies going for Kazan, as they romped to 9 league wins on the bounce; Dinamo and Zenit couldn’t match this and let a bit of a gap build up early on the season. However, Kazan did gift both sides some hope. Kazan was 2-0 up away to Torpedo Moscow with only 10 minutes left to play. Dinamo had lost earlier in the day, Zenit who were off the pace by some distance were due to play the following afternoon. Kazan then somehow left Moscow with a solitary point – Torpedo had grabbed 2 goals in the last minute, and Daniil was furious at letting such an opportune moment slip through their fingers.
It was time to put it right the following week against Dinamo Moscow away from home, but Kazan couldn’t find a winner after Dinamo had cancelled out an early Fomin penalty. Danill still had the better of Dinamo since he had joined the club, and was delighted to keep the streak going despite not looking overly impressive. Danill made sure that the league campaign ended on a high before the winter break, and with 6 more wins on the bounce – including a 2-1 victory in St Petersburg – he was delighted to be going into the New Year in such a strong position.
Daniil knew that the season was far from over. It was going to be difficult to maintain this sort of form on three fronts. Kazan was back in action at end of February when Arsenal arrive in Russia before their Russian Cup defence kicks off with the visit of Textilschik Ivanovo. The games are going to come thick and fast, and the winter transfer window had to be navigated with perfection.
In comparison to the same point as last season, Daniil and Kazan were outperforming themselves defensively but were just lacking that finishing touch at the top end of the park – scoring 6 less. Perhaps Velásquez wasn’t as much of a miss as Daniil had anticipated, but with the business end of the season coming up, he knew he had to get Addessi up to speed, and fast…