Vadim Furmanov –
After now former Dynamo manager Serhiy Rebrov announced his resignation at the end of last season, club president Ihor Surkis told the media that he had hoped Rebrov “had the strength and courage to continue working.”
Surkis was also full of praise for the recently departed manager, but his words made it clear that he considered Rebrov’s decision to leave the club to be a cowardly one.
It was an unexpectedly harsh criticism of a young, talented manager and dedicated servant to the club. While Rebrov’s last season was an abject disappointment, in just over three seasons in Kyiv he delivered two league titles, two Ukrainian Cups, and a Super Cup. Moreover, under Rebrov Dynamo reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in sixteen years.
By any measure, Rebrov’s three year-stint was a success, and no one can begrudge him for choosing to pursue a managerial career abroad, as opportunities within Ukraine for an ambitious manager are scarce. So why, then, did Surkis essentially accuse his protégé of cowardice?
Rebrov – His Three-Year Stint was a Success
Any attempt to assess the legacy of Rebrov at Dynamo must start with his appointment. When Surkis decided to fire Oleh Blokhin in April of 2014, Rebrov was only brought on as a caretaker until the end of the season while the president sought out a more experienced and credentialed manager.
Rebrov took full advantage of the unexpected opportunity and duly defeated Shakhtar in the cup final. Having gained the trust and support of the squad, Rebrov was appointed to the full-time role, and the rest is history.
But this success has not insulated him from criticism. Even during the first two seasons that were full of silverware, Rebrov had his detractors. The fact that Dynamo’s main rivals Shakhtar were forced into exile and playing all of their matches on the road was used by some pundits, as well as Shakhtar’s manager Mircea Lucescu, to delegitimize Rebrov’s accomplishments.
Then there was Rebrov’s Spanish assistant, Raul Riancho, who was widely considered the architect behind Dynamo’s impressive performances. That Riancho’s departure for the staff of the Ukrainian national team coincided with Dynamo’s poor form only served to bolster this narrative, no matter how truthful it is.
When things began to unravel in Rebrov’s third season, with a resurgent Shakhtar storming toward the title, his future at Dynamo came into doubt. His contract with the club expired at the end of the season, and through the entirety of the campaign the question of will he/won’t he remain hung over the team.
Ultimately it was Rebrov who Decided it was Time to Move on
In the end, Rebrov opted to leave, but it is noteworthy that it was his own decision – both he and Surkis acknowledged that fact. Rebrov could have chosen to continue to lead Dynamo, and Surkis reportedly gave him that option, but he backed out.
The reality of the situation is that Rebrov has already gotten the maximum out of the available crop of players. Yes, last season was a disappointment, and the 13-point gap between Dynamo and Shakhtar is never acceptable. But despite their two-year return to the pinnacle of Ukrainian football, it appears more and more that this was a temporary blip during Shakhtar’s period of domination rather than any significant power shift.
Shakhtar’s squad is far superior, especially their Brazilian core of attackers. From a financial standpoint, even given their exile, Shakhtar are more stable than Dynamo. The capital club are hardly on the brink of collapse, but they are no longer as active on the transfer market, especially when it comes to attracting foreign stars of the quality of Aleksandar Dragović or Miguel Veloso.
Dynamo must now come to terms with and adjust to this new reality by focusing on youth development and smarter transfer activity. Rebrov has given youth players such as Artem Besedin and Viktor Tsyhankov a more prominent role this most recent season, but overall his record with youth players is mediocre.
Rebrov’s decision was likely influenced by these factors, and he chose to make his exit and hand over the reins to someone else to lead the club through the uncertain times ahead. Even though Surkis may consider this a sign of cowardice, Rebrov is far from the first manager in history to leave a club after a successful stint and before an overhaul. Rebrov’s decision is a matter of personal preference and career progression, not some warlike sense of honour and duty to the club as Surkis made it seem.
For all the tension that has characterised their relationship over the past three years, Surkis nevertheless maintains that Rebrov is always welcome back:
“The doors of Dynamo are always open, and we are always waiting for him. It doesn’t matter in what role. Just as a person, as a loyal Dynamo man, who has given all of his strength to the club.”
At just forty-three years of age, Serhiy Rebrov is already one of Dynamo’s most accomplished managers, and that is the only job on his managerial CV. The jury is still out on his legacy; much will depend on how his successor, the Belarusian Alyaksandr Khatskevich, fares at Dynamo. As for Rebrov, he has now moved to the Saudi club Al Ahli, but considering his relative youth and reputation at Dynamo, return at some point in the future for the legend seems a likely possibility.
Vadim Furmanov is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Originally from Ukraine, Vadim has resided in Chicago since 1994 and is a passionate supporter of both Dynamo Kyiv and the Ukrainian national team. He is also a Chicago Fire season ticket holder and a member of the Fire’s Section 8 supporters group. He writes primarily about Ukrainian football, as well as the intersection between football, politics, and history. You can follow Vadim on Twitter @vfurmanov.