Valeriy Lobanovskyi

Hanks

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I remember being a kid in the late 90s, watching football for the same time...

Snowy Kyiv, young Andriy Shevchenko, orange ball....really nostalgic now.

Recall their coach always had a hat on, a real old grandpa face that you couldn't help but love... and then one day fainted mid-match...had surgery and died a few days later.

There was a minute of silence in Real - Leverkusen CL final in his memory....his funeral was attended by even the Ukrainian president at the time.

Dynamo Kyiv immediately renamed their stadium after this legendary coach...Valeryi Lobanowskyi.

I've been in Kyiv in the past couple of weeks and had a chance to go to the Dynamo Kyiv museum and see the Lobanovskyi Stadium and monument in the middle of the city, as well as all other tributes.

His biggest managerial achievements include: USSR 1988 Euro Cup runners up, 1976 Olympics Bronze medal, 2 times European Cup winner's Cup winners with Dynamo Kyiv, and of course reaching the CL semi with Dynamo in 1997, only to lose 4-3 to Bayern in aggregate and miss out on playing United in final at Camp Nou.

For the older heads who remember his teams and style...which current manager does he have the most resemblance with? In terms of how he sets up his team/style? Where would you rank him among the world's best coaches in the 80s and the 90s?

 

Himannv

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Here's a post by @harms on his tactical style. Not sure who might be most similar to him among modern managers but maybe he can suggest someone.

I'll do this in different parts. This one about the innovations that Lobanovsky had brought in football training.


Lobanovsky’s training regime.

A lot has been said about Lobanovsky and his excruciating training methods. He was someone who was positively obsessed with physicality — he wanted to make a team that would work like a machine, so he expected from his players to keep up their level of performance throughout the entire 90 minutes of incredibly demanding and energetic football with aggressive pressing and constant off-the-ball movement.

At its best, it worked like a treat and his teams got a constant praise from the likes of Michels and Lippi – for example, Michels said that the football that Lobanovsky’s USSR had shown during the 1988 Euros was as close to perfection as he had ever seen, and even compared its final to the 1974 World Cup final (but this time it was Michels’ team that had won against the logic of the game). At its worst, it had caused conflicts and even literal mutinies – after a few seasons of Lobanovsky’s routine footballers felt completely exhausted and burnt out. Dynamo Kiyv’s players even compared their training to Nazi’s concentration camps – a darkly humourous exaggeration, of course, but still a damning one, especially when you take in consideration that that generation of players were born during or straight after the WW2.

To be fair, the situation had slightly improved over the years, especially after the 1976 mutiny when players asked the management to fire Lobanovsky – only a year after achieving an unprecedented for Soviet teams European success. Before that, Lobanovsky’s politics were to sign young players, drain everything that he can from them in 5 years and after that, get rid – truly a scarily inhumane approach. In the 80’s he would switch to a more considerate approach and players from that era would describe him more as a father-like figure than as a ruthless dictator, although he had still combined both methods in his approach. Still, from what you have read up to this point, you’d be tempted to imagine a Felix Magath-like figure, but this would be a mistake – so I’ll try to describe his training routine in more detail, including multiple innovations that he and his team (most notably Oleh Bazylevych and Anatoly Zelentsov) had introduced to the football world.

Quality over quantity.

At the time when Lobanovsky and Bazylevych had became co-managers (technically Bazylevych was Lobanovsky’s assistant, but they both insisted that responsibility and appreciation should be split equally between them), the training regime in Soviet clubs, like everything else in the country, was heavily regulated by the government. There were strict instructions on the way that the training session should be organised and scheduled – for example, one training session was supposed to be 2 hours long. That routine was developed without much consideration for football specifics, in fact it was mostly a standard athletic stuff with the addition of some time with the ball. Lobanovsky (& co., but I won’t mention them every time for my convenience) wanted a revolution, and in 1972 he was given a much-needed inspiration by a Soviet sprinter Valeriy Borzov and his coach, Valentin Petrovsky. Borzov had won the Olympic Gold in both 100m and 200m races, and after the win he had said that at least half of the credit for his success should go to his coach. Petrovsky, who had a PhD. in biology, after a meticulous study of the sport, had developed a special training program and even a new running style for Borzov – unlike your regular athletic training at the time, this one had focused on the specific muscles that were crucial to sprinters. They had literally rebuilt Borzov’s entire body in order to achieve this result. Lobanovsky had realised that he needs to do the same in football – and he knew that he was going to need some help, so he had contacted Anatoly Zelentsov, Petrosvky’s pupil and currently a professor at Kiyv State Institute of Physical Education.


Dynamo Kiyv was the first Soviet club to open their own science center (nicknamed Zelentsov’s center for obvious reasons). The first thing that they did was to cut the training session in half – instead of 2 hours of training that the government standards demanded, Dynamo only trained for 45-50 minutes per day… but those were the different kind of trainings. High-intensity work outs are pretty much the norm today – not only in professional sport, but even in home fitness sessions. At the time though, it was a revolution – after 50 minutes of training Dynamo players were completely shuttered; not only in Soviet football there were no real analogies, the world football was still using general athletic training as the basis for everything as well. What also separated Lobanovsky’s system was the thorough analysis of which muscles were more important for footballers and which muscles only hurt players agility and pace – and while they were able to pick the best talents from all over the country, it was their system that nurtured the natural athletic gifts of the likes of Blokhin and Demyanenko and transformed them into almost literal superhumans that had combined insane pace with the ability of retaining high energy levels and intensity throughout the entire game.

Mind games.

There’s a famous quotation of Cruyff: «football is a game that you play with your brain» & a similar one that he had used while describing Dennis Bergkamp: «you play football with your head and your legs are there to help you». Despite such focus on athleticism and player’s physique, Lobanovsky shared the same conviction, and I’m not only talking about his tactical lessons that could’ve lasted for hours. The slight difference in Cruyff’s quotations here is quite significant – Lobanovsky was not only interested in player’s mind and the ideas that could’ve been taught, he was also interested in their brains – quite literally.

Dynamo training included things that you’re more likely to witness in neurological studies – multiple tests on your reaction speed, concentration, memory and overall intelligence. You’d have simple tests – like clicking on a button as fast as you can after seeing a dot flashing on a screen to measure your reaction speed, and you’d have insane tests like watching a dot trace a complicated trajectory through a maze and then trying to recreate it without hitting any of the walls – a game that was testing both your memory and coordination in a very challenging way.

You can see some of them in this video – starting at 2:25 and 3:38




Statistics 101.

The difference in physical & mental training was not the only thing that Lobanovsky, Bazylevych and Zelentsov had though of. They had developed the first real system for a statistical player performance analysis – in the age of xG’s it looks basic and outdated, but you have to understand that there was literally nothing of the sorts in football before them. They had called it the TTA – tactical & technical actions. A special man sat on the stadium and wrote down every action (a pass, a tackle etc.) and a success rate – for every position there was a standard for both number of actions and success rate, and if you didn’t reach it, you’ll be in trouble. Again, in the age of big data it does seem a bit simplistic and naive, but you have to remember that this was the first real introduction of math and statistics to football if we don’t count goal scored & conceded as one. When Lobanovski said things like, “A team that commits errors in no more than 15 to 18 per cent of its actions is unbeatable,” he wasn’t guessing. Zelentsov’s team had run the numbers.

When Simon Kuper (the author of ‘Soccernomics’, ‘Football against the Enemy’ etc.) visited Kiyv in 1992, he was shocked by what he had saw — Zelentsov showed him a room, where his assistant was watching a Dynamo game on a screen divided into 9 squares. A computer programme was automatically analysing players movement, measuring how often each player went into each part of the pitch, who should replace him when he left the zone and how much work did he do with and without the ball. Reminds you a bit of Pep's juego de posićion, doesn't it?


Guardiola's training ground – here's a very good article on the matter
 

harms

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For the older heads who remember his teams and style...which current manager does he have the most resemblance with? In terms of how he sets up his team/style? Where would you rank him among the world's best coaches in the 80s and the 90s?
It's really hard to say as most of his principles are now widely used by all of modern managers. Weirdly enough, he'd be an unlikely mix of Diego Simeone and Pep Guardiola. There is a bit of Bielsa in him – especially in the maniacal focus on details and everything that happens in the club, but he was less dogmatic. Also Klopp-like ability to elevate decent players to a great level – he had only worked with a few truly special talents (like Blokhin and Sheva), but his teams always went toe to toe with teams stacked with all-time great talent (take Bayern with Beckenbauer, Müller, Breitner, Maier etc. or Netherlands with van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard, Koeman etc.).

From what I've seen, Nagelsmann seem to be the closest one:
  • proactive tactics
  • very adaptable – has many systems and can switch between them even during one game
  • high press
  • insane focus on details and technical innovations (big screens with replays on the training ground etc.)

Lobanovsky was one of the best managers in the world for three decades in a row (70's, 80's and 90's), which is already insane. His influence on the modern game is massive – he's behind only the mammoths like Michels, Sacchi & Cruyff, and he had a disadvantage of working on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

In the full movie I think there were a few more managers talking about his influence on them and their game
 

Caesar2290

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Didn't his Dynamo Kiev team beat Barcelona 4-0 at home and 3-0 away in the 1997 group stage? If I remember correctly they also dispatched Real Madrid in the 1998-1999 season.

Beast of a man
 

Gio

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Didn't his Dynamo Kiev team beat Barcelona 4-0 at home and 3-0 away in the 1997 group stage? If I remember correctly they also dispatched Real Madrid in the 1998-1999 season.

Beast of a man
Aye, thought that team might have gone all the way in 98/99 and deserved to overcome Bayern in the semi-finals on the balance of play and the chances they created.
Lobanovsky was one of the best managers in the world for three decades in a row (70's, 80's and 90's), which is already insane. His influence on the modern game is massive – he's behind only the mammoths like Michels, Sacchi & Cruyff, and he had a disadvantage of working on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.
Hard to think of many others with that Ferguson-esque longevity at the top of the game. Each of his 3 Kyiv sides in those decades were brilliant to watch, ahead of their time, and I think people forget just how capable that Soviet Union side was in the second half of the 1980s. They were arguably the best international side in the world between the 1986 and 1988 tournaments, defeating France, West Germany, Argentina, Holland, Yugoslavia, England and Italy.
 

Hanks

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Thank you @harms for your post and explanation.

I went to Baikove cemetery in Kyiv today when the great man is buried and had a sad surprise facing me, being the lone man at the cemetery in that section.

It appears that his wife Ada passed away 2 weeks ago and she'll be buried next to him, so there were many many flowers next to his grave as well as on Valeriy's gravestone.

One really does wonder how would the Dynamo of 1998 have matched up vs. United in the UCL final had they been more clinical in the semis.
 

GifLord

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I remember the late 90s Dynamo with Sheva and Rebrov. Crazy how many goals they scored together.
 

Demyanenko_square_jaw

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The main problem that Kyiv team had other than lack of depth compared to most of the other better knockout quality sides was the relatively poor and error prone keeper Shovkovskiy.
 

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One of the best ever. On the same page as Ferguson or Trappatoni for example. And I don't put Michels/Cruyff/Sacchi above him.

Reason? Simple, he created 3 different super Dynamo Kiev teams in 3 different decades. The Soviet Union of 86 and 88 were a bit unluncky, but it's International Football. Honestly think his methods would only be acceptable on the Soviet Block, can't imagine him doing this on Western Europe.

And he reached 3 Champions League Semifinals, one of them against Porto in 1987, where for some unexpected reason they made a lot of deffensive mistakes and lost when they were highly favourites. Actually the Porto players of that era were more afraid of playing against them than against Bayern or Real Madrid. That's how good they were.

If you want to see different stages of his Kiev and USSR teams would suggest Dynamo vs Atletico Madrid Cup Winners Cup Final in 1986, USSR vs France in 1986, USSR vs Italy 1988 or Dynamo games against Real Madrid and Barcelona between 97 and 99.