Russia replaces Capello with homegrown football coach

Leonid Slutsky © Vladimir Fedorenko
CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky has been put in charge of Russia’s national football team, taking a position that had been vacant since the sacking of Fabio Capello on July 14.

Slutsky will be heading Team Russia during the four remaining matches in the qualifying group stages of the Euro 2016 and, if necessary, the two games in the playoffs, the Sport-Express paper reported.

The 44-year-old coach will be combining jobs at the national team and his club CSKA Moscow in the Russian Premier League.

“Given the difficult situation in which the national team currently finds itself, CSKA decided to do a favor to the Russian Football Union and allowed Leonid Slutsky to combine positions in the club and the national team until the end of the Euro 2016 qualifying round,” a statement on CSKA’s website said.

“CSKA wishes the coach success both at the club and the national team,” it added.

“It will be tough, but I am grateful for their confidence,” said Slutsky, commenting on his assignment to the Russian squad, which followed weeks of uncertainty and speculations.

The national team sits five points behind Sweden in the battle for the second spot in their qualifying group and automatic qualification for the European football championships, hosted by France next summer.

Slutsky has established himself as the top Russian manager in recent years, winning two back-to-back Russian Premier League titles with CSKA in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

He became the first Russian national to head the country’s football squad since July 2006.

"We have stated many times that, at this stage, a Russian coach should lead the national team. Slutsky's work at CSKA has been successful and effective and I believe he is the coach who is able to complete the task of qualification for UEFA Euro 2016. I think it is the best possible decision we could take," Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister, is cited as saying by UEFA.com.

According to Mutko, the new coach won’t be receiving a salary at the national team, but he can count on “some kind of a bonus” if he fulfills the task of qualifying for Euro 2016. 

For nearly a decade the job with the Russian squad was occupied by two Dutchmen Guus Hiddink (2006-10) and Dick Advocaat (2010-12) as well as Fabio Capello in 2012-2015.

Capello, who reportedly earned $10.5 million a year with Russia, failed to meet the high expectations of the country’s football officials and fans.

Team Russia qualified for World Cup 2014 under the legendary Italian, but failed to win a single game in Brazil, scoring just twice in three matches.

It got worse when the country began its qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 as Capello’s experiments with the lineup saw Russia drawing at home with Moldova and losing both meetings with big rivals, Austria.

It was initially planned that Capello would lead Russia in World Cup 2016, but his contract was terminated three years early, with the coach reportedly receiving compensation of over $17 million.