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MOSCOW, August 7. /TASS/. Russia’s chief of the Kremlin staff Sergey Ivanov assisted in contract talks with Leonid Slutsky, who was appointed earlier in the day the head coach of the national football team, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on Friday.
The Russian Football Union (RFU) announced on Friday morning that it concluded a contract with Slutsky, who is also the head coach of CSKA Moscow FC, to take charge of the national football squad until the end of the qualifying session for the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup in France. Slutsky was allowed to combine his coaching positions both in the club and the national squad until the contract expires.
"There were no major problems in talks with CSKA management," Mutko said in an interview with TASS. "I would like to thank CSKA President Yevgeny Giner and [Director General] Roman Babaev as they agreed to compromise and understood our request."
"I would also like to mention the help on behalf of Sergey Borisovich Ivanov in talks with Slutsky," Mutko said. "He is a great fan of CSKA."
Leonid Slutsky, 44, began career of a coach in 1993 at the age of 22 - he was working with a group of 12 year-old boys in Volgograd and brought the team to the first place in local competitions in 1999. Later on, he worked as the coach of different Russian football clubs.
In October of 2009, he was invited to be the head coach of the CSKA FC taking the club to the leading positions in the national competitions.
"I would also like to wish Slutsky good luck," Mutko said. "He is facing an arduous task. The Russian team is currently in the 31st position of FIFA rankings. This is not our position. We need to make way back up to the top ten of the leading football nations."
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov gave no comments on Friday on the Kremlin's possible role in the appointment of Leonid Slutsky as the national football team's head coach.
"I cannot answer this question," Peskov said. "I have no information about the presidential administration's role."
The RFU announced on July 14 that it reached a mutual agreement with Italy’s Capello on the early termination of the contract with the Italian specialist concerning his work in the capacity of the national team’s head coach. The announcement followed Russia’s 0-1 defeat to Austria in the 2016 Euro Cup qualifier in Moscow on June 14.
The qualifier’s defeat in mid-June placed in extreme jeopardy Russia’s chances of travelling to France next year for the Euro Cup. The Russian national team is currently ranked 3rd in its qualifying Group G with 8 points below 2nd ranked Sweden (12 points), while the Austrian team increased its lead over the rest of the five national teams in the group to 16 points.
National team’s defeat on June 14 raised a storm of criticism not only among the football fans and sports experts, but among Russian politicians as well, as they urged the Russian football authorities to part with the Italian specialist.
Italian phenomenon Capello took over the national team as the head coach in July of 2012 and managed to help the Russian squad to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The team, however, failed to clear the first stage of the much-anticipated global tournament putting their coach in the centre of stern criticism and raising serious concerns in the country about the team’s performance in the next World Cup, which would be hosted by Russia in 2018.
Russia did not sever the contract with Capello after the national team’s weak performance at the World Cup in Brazil and the Italian manager also decided to stay with the Russian squad as the head coach until the year of 2018 as stipulated by the contract terms.
Russia’s daily Novaya Gazeta published in late April a copy of a contract inked by the RFU with Italian manager Capello in January of 2014. In line with the document, which was signed until July 2018 and stipulated an annual salary of 7 million euros ($7.6 million) for the Italian coach, the RFU practically had no rights of severing the contract unilaterally without paying a penalty, while Capello was granted such an opportunity.