At 75, Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu is coming back into the UEFA Champions League as coach of Dynamo Kyiv. His first task will be to take on a Juventus side coached by Andrea Pirlo, who made his playing debut as a 16-year-old under Lucescu 25 years ago.
A Champions League coach with Inter Milan, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş and Shakhtar Donetsk before he came to Dynamo, he spoke to UEFA.com about what keeps him motivated.
On Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo
What was he like as a teenager at Brescia? Incredible, mature. Mature like he is now. I remember going to Viareggio to watch a match and I went home in the car with him. We had time to speak for two hours. I realised that he was a very level-headed guy. As well as being a creative player, he was someone who organised everything, which is yet another skill. That has helped him a lot to become what he is today, the coach of a wonderful team like Juventus. He called me a maestro? It makes me proud. I must thank him! I hope he has a great career [as a coach].
On his new adventure with Dynamo Kyiv
[Since Dynamo were last in the group stage], the squad has lost a lot of valuable players, international players. They’ve begun to give those spaces to young players. It’s a very young squad, and therefore my aim is to build this team, then to get the team playing, and finally to get results. It’s not possible in football to start [with a team] and get results straight away. There are no miracles in football.
What I expect from my players is to go out onto the pitch believing in their ability, to play without fear, without thinking of the great players in front of them. A lot of them are young: [Illia] Zabarnyi is 18, [Vitaliy] Mykolenko is 21, [Vladyslav] Supryaha is 20, [Viktor] Tsygankov, [Heorhii] Tsitaishvili, [Mykola] Shaparenko. They need to play at this level to grow. I’m here to help them, that’s all.
On preparing his players to face Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
I’ve come across them many times, but my players haven’t. They’ll come across them soon. I have to explain what they’re like. Messi is a short player who is exceptional in tight spaces because of his acceleration, self-confidence, dribbling and all that. Ronaldo is a different kind of player because he loves to score so much that he needs bigger spaces. He needs everyone’s help, his team-mates’ help.
Messi can do a lot of things on his own. Ronaldo can work by himself in the penalty area or 20 metres from the area, but he tries to take advantage of the space created by others and he strikes. That’s it: they’re different, but they’re both really strong players.
On staying motivated
I find motivation in my passion for football, that’s for sure. I tried to stop last year, because I’ve worked for 50 years without a break. I’ve never taken a sabbatical like other coaches. I wanted to work. I tried to stop last year, but it was impossible. I wanted to come back. I told myself that there was so much I could still give to football, especially to young players. So, I came back and I feel good being back at work.
That passion is what continues to push you forward. I try to understand other people. And also to respect and understand the culture of the country you’re coming to, because there are cultural differences between countries, even with regards to football. Being the ‘globetrotting’ manager that I am, you do things this way precisely because you want to be faced with different cultures, different people, different history, different geography, everything. You enjoy everything that’s important: learning, education, going to museums. Everywhere you go, it’s not just football that’s important.
On the Champions League
It’s a competition that I’m accustomed to! I’ve been involved in more than 130 games. I’m not just talking about the group stage, but teams also have to play in the qualifiers: one round, two rounds, three rounds.
The Champions League anthem is like your national anthem. So, you listen to it with the same emotion and you respect it enormously.