Premier League Lessons – Georgi Kinkladze

Premier League Lessons time again, and diminutive Georgian winger Georgi Kinkladze of Manchester City fame is next to have his talents remembered.

It can be argued that Georgi Kinkladze was a one-season wonder. Having spent most of the beginning of his career either in Georgia, or struggling to impress scouts of top European clubs, he was signed by Manchester City Chairman Francis Lee ahead of the 1995/96 season. He cost £2m and when Alan Ball arrived to take charge of the Maine Road side he immediately knew he had something special on his hands. He promised reporters that, within months, all in English football would be talking about Kinkladze – and he was not wrong. Gio took the big stage by storm, scoring and setting up some fine goals, but it was his skills as a dribbler that really caught the eye. His chunky build was misleading, as Kinkladze possessed considerable speed, and incredibly quick feet. His low centre of gravity was certainly an asset and, like his hero Maradona, he could go on runs with the ball that defied the imagination.

Kinkladze could slalom his way through a defence when it did not seem possible. He left defenders in his wake like few players have in the history of the game. It was an ability that was a rarity back then and is only occasionally exhibited now by the likes of Lionel Messi or Andres Iniesta. When Kinky got going, he was almost impossible to defend against, and was the type of player that you want to see on the ball. When he set off on one of his runs, the crowd would anticipate something special, and they would rarely be disappointed. Kinkladze did not need step-overs or fancy flicks to dazzle, he would simply beat his man in a way that conjured memories of the great dribblers of bygone eras and these runs led to some truly memorable goals.

But there was more to the stocky Georgian’s game – he possessed considerable vision and had a varied range in his passing ability. He was not just a goal-scoring midfielder – he could also set them up. His quick feet and ability to terrorise a defence would naturally create openings for teammates and he had the necessary vision to spot these and the passing ability to create opportunities. The 1995/96 season was by far his most effective, but unfortunately he was playing in a failing side that was eventually relegated. If he had played for some of the teams he was linked with – Barcelona, Liverpool, etc – perhaps this aspect of his game would have blossomed. But it was not to be and Alan Ball’s City side was to be relegated on the final day of the season.

Kinkladze remained in Manchester for a further two seasons, but the lower division was not for him and he struggled to make an impact. City’s fans had effectively canonised him however, and perhaps this tugged on his heart strings when, despite there being genuine interest from a number of top-flight clubs around Europe, he decided to stay in a perhaps misguided but admirable attempt to help City return to the Premier League. A factor that certainly did not help Gio’s football was the managerial merry-go-round that had suddenly afflicted Manchester City and when Joe Royle joined at the end of the 1997/98 season, he deemed Kinkladze a luxury he would be unwilling to accommodate. City were relegated to the third tier of English football, and Kinkladze moved to Ajax for £5m after making 106 appearances and netting 20 goals for the Manchester club.

Manchester City 1995/96

GK

RB – CB – CB – LB

RM – CM – Kinkladze – LM

CF – CF

After a disappointing spell in Holland, where he only made 12 starts, Georgi returned to the Premier League with Jim Smith’s Derby County. However, the Georgian never did rekindle his old magic and struggled to make an impact in the first team. He went on to make 80 appearances for the club, but was largely disappointing. He was again the victim of numerous managerial changes after Smith departed in October 2001. The Rams were relegated that season, and again Kinkladze stayed on, playing well enough in the second half of the next season to be voted the fan’s player of the year. When he was offered a contract extension but on a greatly reduced wage, he chose to leave. Despite holding talks with Liverpool, he soon disappeared into the football wilderness.

An enigma as much as a legend, Georgi Kinkladze stunned those who saw him at his best, but never did live up to his potential. Injury certainly played its part in hampering his career, and towards the latter stages of his playing days he was rapidly gaining weight. A master at the art of dribbling, Kinkadze was just as adept at ending up at the wrong club at the wrong time. He often found himself in failing sides and, always an acquired taste, would all too often find his entertaining style not to the liking of incoming managers. Following spells in Cyprus and Russia, Kinkladze’s career ended with a whimper, but as those who had witnessed him at his best will know, it was a career that had contained some truly exquisite moments.

Kinkladze Factfile

Name – Georgiou Kinkladze
Age – 36 (July 6, 1973)
Position – Central Midfield
Clubs (Appearances/Goals)
Mretebi Tbilisi (50/9)
Dinamo Tbilisi (65/41)
FC Saarbrucken – loan – (11/0)
Boca Juniors – loan – (3/0)
Manchester City (106/20)
Ajax (12/0)
Derby County (93/7)
Anorthosis Famagusta (22/2)
Rubin Kazan (13/2)
Club honours – Georgian Second Division (90-91) – Umaglesi Liga (92-93, 93-94, 94-95) – Georgian Cup (92-93, 94-95) – Cypriot First Division (04-05) – Georgian Footballer of the Year (1993,1996)
Nationality – Georgian
Caps/Goals – 55/8

Premier League Lessons

Gianfranco Zola
Ryan Giggs
Tony Adams
Alan Shearer
Eric Cantona
Dennis Bergkamp
Thierry Henry
Georgi Kinkladze

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