Arshavin: Russian football players spoiled by money? No, they earn as long as they can

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Football player from FC Zenit Andrey Arshavin, who with “a break on a business trip to London” has played in the club from St. Petersburg for 14 years, in an interview to GQ told about the difference between football in the UK and Russia, and how players spend their salaries.

- In an interview, you told that the difference between London and St. Petersburg in terms of football is unbelievable. What are your arguments?

- Five minutes after I signed the contract, my photos were posted on the site. Not so many clubs can boast such speed. This is the first one. Second, my only visit to the club office was to sign the contract. Next time I was there when I was leaving for FC Zenit. Maybe now FC Zenit provides the same conditions, but before it was different. Third, everything is strictly prescribed, I mean communication with the press and so on. Fourth, football broadcasting on TV, greatly composed order of play. In England, you can watch football only if you have a pay TV channel.

- What sort of relationship is between the players? Are they mostly professional?

- I don’t think so. The same as in Russia. Attitude towards foreigners in FC Arsenal and in FC Zenit is the same.

- It seemed to me that in England players run faster. Is it right?

- No, in FC Arsenal I didn’t notice that someone gave someone a pill or something like that. Only if the player is sick or injured. The training process does not differ. In my opinion, the English Premier League has the best athletes of the world.

About salaries

- Have you seen the new salary rating of the Russian football?

- Yes, I have.

- Do you have a feeling that the average Russian football is spoiled by money?

- No, I don’t. Players earn money as long as they can. They don’t set salaries. It is clear that if they played in other championships, they would earn less. If you invite other players, you will pay more. Because no one will go to Russia.

- In FC Atletico Madrid the average salary is €700,000 per year.

- Invite them to Russia. They won’t go. English football players get less, but they won’t go either. It is difficult to entice players to Russia. They know little about us, we seem hard to understand. Naturally, they are afraid. I’m talking about the European football. Russia can get a great number of players from Brazil, Africa.

- It seems quiet racist.

- No, they just have a possibility to choose and change. Not everything is measured by money, there are families, children. Our language is not like English, French. Naturally, for the foreigner it is easier to adapt in France or England. However, people and clubs are very hospitable towards foreigners.

About humor

- Your Arsenal ex-teammate Frimpong (who now plays in Ufa) once told the press you were the laziest player in the world. Did it hurt you?

- No, such words can’t hurt me. I have a good report with Manu and I will be happy to meet him again. At that time he was a young player. I think Wenger hoped he would be a great player. He has an excellent sense of humor.

- Your words of 2008: “As long as I’m playing well, I can say anything I want.” Today are you closer to a state when you have to think what to say.

- In general, I began to talk less. This is due to the fact that in England I answered the questions, then my interviews were translated into Russian, and then re-translated into English. And the first interview was very different from the third one. So since the Arsenal times I rarely give interviews. And I have no many things to talk about: I have played football a little lately, and as for personal issues, you can learn more from my ex-wife. So it makes no sense to get involved in such discussions.

- You have a fantastic self-irony in respect of your first marriage. Is it such a defensive reaction, or you are just so funny?

- Maybe the reaction. On the other hand, enough time has passed to begin to perceive the situation with irony.

- A divorced man has different roles. For example, a Sunday dad, a regular schedule. How does it look like in your case?

- For a year I have not seen the children. So I haven’t had any roles so far.

- At the same time I remember you as a caring and cool father.

- Apparently, someone does not think so.

- Do you follow Yuliya’s success?

- Anyway, I get some information from my friends. Everyone considers it their duty to express opinions. If I happen to watch Yuliya’s program, I don’t switched off the channel, but I do not follow her programs on purpose.

About coaching philosophy

- Wenger (Arsene Wenger is French football coach, since 1996 he has worked with FC Arsenal) is a very strange coach. I read about it in the memories of the football club’s players.

- I think the contrary. He has his own philosophy, and he deviates from it in very extreme cases. For me it was easy enough to work with him. With something I agreed and with something I disagreed, but we had no conflicts. He differs from our understanding of a coach: he’s very intelligent, he always speaks calmly, he almost never shouts. Only three times in four and a half years I heard him to shout. He’s wise. He clearly explains what he wants and what he thinks about football. He always analyzes game processes that occur in the football world: its development, transfer market, tactics.

- And how would you define the philosophy of Wenger?

- Wenger is ready to sacrifice players’ stardom, but he wants to play attacking, gorgeous football; he chooses certain players with certain characteristics: football players should be fast and perfectly possess the ball. If a player wants money, Wenger will agree with the club to offer good money. He will take efforts, talk to the player, determine prospects, but he won’t be dependent on the player. As a result, all the best players leave FC Arsenal. By the way, not in my case: my case is just the opposite. Wenger doesn’t try to get the passing train, he goes ahead and always forgets and has no regrets about the players who left the club. I have never heard him to say: “Oh, I’m so sorry, he has left the club.” The players who stayed will feel it and they feel the coach’s confidence.

- Have you had personal conversations with Wenger?

- Just before signing the contract, when he explained me my position on the field. We had no other urgent conversations. We also talked before practices, discussed matches, he asked me about my performance in the Russian football team.

- Is he witty?

- It's hard to say. I have not heard him to joke often. To be honest, he also says little. Before training he explains the task. In the locker room he discusses the game.

About fairytales

- How did you explain to yourself the end of the London fairytale? You’re smart enough to do that.

- It’s hard to say. I think I should have left earlier, when I was twenty. It would be much easier for me, as well as in a football sense. Wasn’t I enough healthy? I do not know. It seems to me I chose the wrong time to play in FC Arsenal. How to explain... It was a shift change, which started in 2006. Wenger began to build a new team; and it does not negate the fact that FC Arsenal never falls below a certain level. Nevertheless, for the team I played in, it was difficult to win the Premier League.

- You scored four goals in Enfield, sat in the locker room, what happened next?

- I was empty, but very happy. No other memories. We weren’t ambitious at that time. On the contrary, we let FC Liverpool down. We missed our chances before the match and didn’t compete to win. We just didn’t allow Liverpool to compete against FC Manchester United. We were fighting to be third-fourth in the League.

- Once you were named the best sportsman of the year by GQ. Was it the reason for pride?

- I do not know, I have nothing. I don’t remember.

- GQ then tried to invite you through your manager who asked for money.

- Good man. Well, I do not know. I have nothing.

- In general, you are the best sportsman of the year by GQ.

- Okay.

About languages

- Did you have a great practice of English in London?

- I think yes. I spoke well at that time and now. I understand everything. Sometimes in America I do not understand some things which are strange to me. The pronunciation is very different. British English and American English are very different.

- I know what you are talking about. Which American cities did you visit?

- Only Miami.

- It’s like Sochi.

- Sochi or not, maybe it was my problem, but I hardly understood Americans. They swallow words and use different words. All the people around you say: “Buddy, buddy!”; in England everyone says “Mate”. Actually, I was told that in England ten years ago no one said “hi”; it was a sign of poor taste. You had to say “Hello”. By the way, the more intelligent English people are, the easier it is to understand them: their speech flows. All the sentences are like one, and all the words are distinctly heard. They talk fast, but every word is separated. But when foreigners talk, there are some problems. On the other hand, when I began to speak English and I was asked to repeat what I had said, I thought I spoke badly. Then I realized that I spoke fine. In London they use plain English, there are a lot of visitors, and sometimes they do not understand you, do not know some words although they work in shops or public bodies. But then I got used.

- Zhirkov who was a football player of FC Chelsea had a favorite place in London – a shop Dolce & Gabbana where a Russian saleswoman worked; he went there to speak the native language.

- I had a lot of favourite places. Parks.

- Hyde Park?

- No, only rich people live next to Hyde Park. By the way, Zhirkov lived there. I lived in the north of the city – in Mayfair, where there are many restaurants. London has its advantage: if you live in the center, you can do a lot of walking, everything is close.

- You once were photographed by Kerzhakov for his Instagram. You were asleep.

- So what can I say? A good sense of humor. I had no plans of revenge. Then he was trying to use the disc with my song on the way from the stadium to the hotel, but, thanks to God, the disc did not work. “Dvorovy futbol” / “Yard football”.

- You were so diverse. You modeled in 2006, recorded a disc, it is strange you didn’t make a movie.

- By the way, I wanted to do that.

- I’m not surprised. Did you have any project you regretted to participate in?

- For sure nothing was a shame. Everything was done for fun; it was interesting to try different things. I liked the trip to Kemerovo, when we arranged the match: Nikolay Valuyev’s team against the team of Andrey Arshavin. I met interesting people. As a result, we had a marvelous holiday. I would not say I thought a lot of it, just it came to my mind.

About luxury and relax

- Forgive me saying that but you played in one of the most fashionable capitals of the world. Don’t you think that Russian players abuse luxury? You have a Vertu. Have you seen such phones in England?

- No, no one understands what Vertu is. Well, they heard something about Vertu but they do not understand why one needs it. They all use Blackberry. The only players without a Blackberry were Pavlyuchenko and I. Blackberry has a free messenger, and football players always use it. Many players have two phones: one for calls and the other one – Blackberry. Van Persie also had a Vertu. But it’s difficult to impress foreigners by Vertu. Vertu costs 3,000 pounds ($4,400). By the way, I do not use Vertu so often. It’s my Russian phone and I left it at home quiet often. In London, you hardly impress people with things. Sometimes I had a dinner with millionaires but they looked like vagabonds. In London they do not boast, it is great that no one there pays attention what you’re wearing. I like that.

- You are the only player on the plane who has a bag Louis Vuitton, not Nike.

- No, not the only one. Someone has the same bag, as I wanted to take by mistake someone’s bag at the airport. In fact, I have always been for Nike. When I started playing, I was taking my training form with me. And in England no one takes things to the field – just a toiletry bag. I took more: computer and many other things. So, I’m accustomed to big bags. Why Louis Vuitton? I had to get VAT, the sum of money was the same as the bag had, moreover, it’s convenient, I can take it on a plane. I do not like a brown bag, but a black one was smaller and didn’t hold all my things. It turns out to be an English habit. But in general, I think athletes have to take sports bags.

- Once I was impressed by the Vanity Fair of FC Chelsea players: from Claude Makelele’s Rolls Royce there was heard music during the whole training.

- In FC Arsenal everyone was modest. Someone had a Ferrari. Podolski had a Wiesmann. In Russia it’s rare. In general, it seems to me that, when I arrived in Arsenal everything was much more modest, apparently, only later the guys started earning more. Seriously. Many things are much more accessible and cheaper there. In my viewpoint, the British, those who live in London, perceive things easier.

- Well, you know the story when Pavlyuchenko came into the locker room of FC Tottenham wearing a Dolce & Gabbana suit with dragons on it and after training he could not find it; they hid the suit in joke.

- Well, of course, African Americans differ from Europeans. They have more chains, baubles, etc. It’s about culture, about what you brought from your country; we can do nothing with that.

- Did you present vodka or matryoshka?

- I presented vodka one day, it was Beluga, “Stolichnaya”. As for matryoshkas, maybe once I brought ten matryoshkas and presented them, not to players, but to some British people. I gave caviar as a present. Of Azerbaijani origin. In this regard, it was hard to beat Oleg Luzhny: he’s said to bring a lot of caviar. I did not try to do that.

- In your opinion, what difficulties Russian players have when it comes to managing money?

- I think, it’s all about knowledge and skills. Few players have time to get an education, not because they are silly, it’s due to the absence of time. When the football player gets money, he tries to ensure his future. But as a rule, together with money appear a lot of people around you who want to use the money for their own purposes. Now players earn good money, they try to save it and increase their income.

- And is there a correlation between lack of knowledge and great sums of money?

- In fact, I think the problem is not the indifference. By the way, it’s not so easy for football players to get money. But we don’t measure these sums: someone can’t get this money working for a lifetime, but for the football player this sum is the salary for six months. And if you earn half a million, you do not want to invest ten thousand and receive one thousand as a bonus. You want to invest a lot of money at once, and receive a lot. And it’s not because of a thirst for profit. It’s just because you need to maintain a certain standard of living, which requires money: a good car for the wife, living in a nice district, travelling.

- Can you remember spending money in vain?

- If I thought about such expenditures, I wouldn’t have time to play football.

- Now you have much spare time.

- So, yes. Of course, I spent money in vain. But I wouldn’t regret anything. Money leaves you, and then it comes back. The money you have to earn, you will earn.

- You had your own business projects. A motor show “BaltAutoTrade”, right?

- I didn’t have a motor show. I just helped my business partner.

- Did you invest money?

- No, I didn’t, I just help him with one thing. He needed my help, and I think I had rendered assistance. But I have nothing to do with “BaltAutoTrade”.

- Okay. And what’s about clothes?

- I have never manufactured clothes. I designed clothes lines with different people. That’s all.

- Subject of your diploma at the Institute of Technology and Design is the specificity of sport suits. And what do you wear every day?

- My sports sponsor’s clothes. If you’re talking about brands ... well, I’ll say that I mostly wear Dolce & Gabbana. But if FC Chelsea players had no a 30 % discount at this store in London, I would have only five pieces of Dolce & Gabbana.

- And who gave you such a discount?

- Zhirkov. Ivanovic. Now living in Russia for one year and a half, I have not bought any clothes. Nothing at all.

- You are so housewifely.

- Well, first of all, I have never gone to the store alone. Yulya has always chosen or bought clothes for me. I have so many clothes, for another five years. In St. Petersburg, I rarely go shopping. Suits? Kiton is a good classic suit for me.

- You have lost weight.

- Yes, in fact I have never been plumpy. My normal weight is 72-73 kilos, like now.

- It’s enough. Heavy bones?

- It has always been so. When I started playing football I weighed 59-61 kilos. Every year I gained 1-1,5 kilos.

- Didn’t you lose a feeling of lightness?

- No, I didn’t.

Text and pictures by TUT.BY