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Born: Friday 6 January 1939, Kiev, USSR (now Ukraine)
Died: Monday 13 May 2002, Zaporizhya, Ukraine (aged 63)
A legendary figure in both the Soviet era and in independent Ukraine, Valeriy Lobanovskiy is most famous for his two highly successful spells as manager of Dynamo Kiev, the club with which he spent the majority of his playing career. For a number of years he also combined his role at Dynamo with managing the Soviet national team, leading them to an appearance in the final of the European Championship in 1988.
Lobanovskiy was born in Kiev on 6 January 1939, growing up with a keen interest in science and studying heating engineering at college. His scientific background led to him developing a systematic way of thinking which he would eventually apply to football during his managerial career. A skilful left-winger famed for his ability to score goals from corners, he joined Dynamo Kiev as a teenager and eventually made his first team debut during the 1959 season.
Dynamo had often been a mid-table team but with Lobanovskiy as one of their stars, finished second in the Soviet league in 1960 and then went one better a year later, sealing their first ever league title in 1961. Lobanovskiy's pragmatic way of thinking meant that he refused to share in the atmosphere of jubilation at the title win, not seeing such things as reasons for great excitement.
Twice called up to the national team, Lobanovskiy remained with Dynamo until the end of 1964, during which time the club also won the Soviet Cup. He later played for Chornomorets Odessa and Shakhtar Donetsk, before retiring after the 1968 season having made more than 250 appearances in the Soviet Top League, scoring 71 goals. He quickly moved into management, putting into practice ideas which he had developed alongside statistician Anatoliy Zelentsov.
Lobanovskiy believed strongly in not allowing opponents time to adapt to his team's style of play, using a hard pressing style which was not always attractive to watch but was extremely effective. He never allowed his principles to be compromised and was known as a strict disciplinarian, feared and respected in equal measure by his players. At the time many considered his methodical approach unusual, using computers to analyse performance and scouting opponents in detail, but many of his ideas were later adopted all around the world.
Having joined second tier side Dnepr (now Dnipro) in 1969, Lobanovskiy led the club to promotion in 1971 and then sixth place in the top flight in 1972. In 1974 he got the opportunity to return to Dynamo Kiev as manager, going on to preside over an era of huge domestic and European success. In his first season, Lobanovskiy led Dynamo to victory in the Soviet Cup, beating Zorya Voroshilovgrad in the final, before holding off Spartak Moscow to claim the first of two successive league titles.
In 1974-75 Dynamo embarked on a historic European run, reaching the Cup Winners' Cup final against Hungarian side Ferencváros. A 3-0 victory made them the first Soviet team to win a major European competition, later beating European champions Bayern Munich to add the Super Cup. Lobanovskiy's achievements led to him being asked to manage the Soviet national team as well. He led them to the last eight of the European Championship in 1976, losing to eventual winners Czechoslovakia, as well as winning the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Montreal.
Back solely in charge of Dynamo, Lobanovskiy led his team to the semi-finals of the European Cup for the first time in 1977 where they missed out to Borussia Mönchengladbach after a late second leg goal. That was the closest Lobanovskiy came to European glory for a number of years, but domestic honours continued to arrive on a regular basis, the title being won in 1977, 1980 and 1981 and the cup in 1979 and 1982.
Following the Soviet national team's exit from the 1982 World Cup in the second group stage, Lobanovskiy was approached to take charge for a second time. He led the team through the qualifying campaign for the 1984 European Championship, but they were denied a place in the finals after losing their final qualifier 1-0 to Portugal, the goal coming from a penalty given for a foul which appeared to be committed outside the box.
Dynamo enjoyed another period of huge success in the mid-1980s, beating Shakhtar Donetsk in the 1985 cup final and then adding the league title later in the year. In the 1985-86 European Cup Winners' Cup, Dynamo overcame a first leg deficit to beat FC Utrecht in the first round and never looked back, storming through the rest of the competition and beating Atlético Madrid in the final to claim their second European trophy.
Just after that success, Lobanovskiy was asked at short notice to manage the Soviet national team for a third time, with the World Cup in Mexico just weeks away. Taking a squad built largely around his Dynamo team, he led his team through the first round as group winners, enjoying a spectacular 6-0 win over Hungary. In the last 16 however, the Soviets came unstuck against Belgium where despite leading twice, they lost 4-3 after extra-time.
Continuing to combine club and international management, Lobanovskiy won another Soviet Cup with Dynamo in 1987 before leading the national team into the 1988 European Championship in West Germany. Still primarily using Dynamo players, the Soviets beat the Netherlands and England to win their group, before overcoming Italy in the last four to reach their first final in 24 years. Unfortunately for Lobanovskiy, his team fell short in a rematch with the Dutch where they were beaten 2-0.
By the 1990 World Cup, things were changing. Increasing freedom meant that many Soviet players had moved abroad and Lobanovskiy no longer had the same close-knit squad as he had in 1988. The Soviet Union had a disappointing tournament in Italy, finishing bottom of their group, after which Lobanovskiy left the national team. Although his Dynamo team won both the league and cup again in 1990, he decided that it was time for a new challenge and left Dynamo as well at the end of the season, moving to the Middle East.
For three years he managed the UAE, leading them to third place in the 1992 Asian Cup, before later taking charge of Kuwait. His connection with Dynamo was however so strong that Lobanovskiy could not resist a return to the club early in 1997, leading them to their fifth successive league title in the now independent Ukraine at the end of that season before a run of three domestic doubles in a row from 1998 to 2000.
As well as maintaining domestic dominance, Lobanovskiy was able to re-establish the Dynamo as a force in European football. His team reached the Champions' League quarter-finals in 1998 and went one step better a year later. Beating holders Real Madrid in the last eight, a narrow 4-3 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich brought the run to an end but Lobanovskiy had matched the best run of his great 1970's team by reaching the semi-finals.
Early in 2000, Lobanovskiy was appointed manager of the Ukrainian national team, again taking on a dual role with club and country. Given the task of leading Ukraine to their first World Cup since independence, his team lost just one of their ten group games but too many draws pushed them into the play-offs. There a 5-2 aggregate defeat to Germany ended their hopes of reaching the finals in Japan and South Korea, and Lobanovskiy stepped down.
He led Dynamo to another title in 2001 but during an ultimately losing championship battle with Shakhtar Donetsk a year later, Lobanovskiy suffered a serious stroke after a match against Metalurh Zaporizhya on 7 May 2002. He died six days later, aged 63. Across his two spells in charge, he led Dynamo to a total of 13 league titles, nine cup wins and two European trophies. In recognition of his achievements, the club's stadium was renamed in his honour.
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- Published on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 12:54