Just one week after the world of football mourned the death of Florian Albert, former USSR forward Valentin Ivanov, who shared the Golden Boot award with his Hungarian counterpart at the 1962 FIFA World Cup Chile™, passed away at the age of 76 following a long illness.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was among the first to express his sadness at the passing of this legendary Russian icon, sentiments expressed in a letter to Sergey Fursenko, President of the Football Union of Russia. Blatter wrote: "On behalf of FIFA and the worldwide family of football, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to you and the Football Union of Russia, to the family of Valentin Ivanov, his friends and loved ones, and most especially to his son, also named Valentin, a former FIFA international referee."
Ivanov Snr was the spearhead of the great USSR team of the 1950s and 1960s that was dominated by the commanding figure of goalkeeper Lev Yashin, ‘The Black Spider’.
Another thing Ivanov had in common with Albert was his decision to play his entire career with one club, in his case Torpedo Moscow, for whom he racked up an impressive total of 124 goals in 286 games between 1952 and 1966 - a record that makes him the ninth top scorer in the history of the Soviet league. A native of Moscow, Ivanov made his first-team debut for Torpedo at 18 years of age, having come through the club’s youth ranks.
Despite a build and height that were perfectly suited for playing through the middle during that particular era, he was even more effective in a role as inside forward. His remarkable pace and wide array of skills allowed him to gain the upper hand and take defences by surprise. Alongside Eduard Streltsov, nicknamed the ‘Russian Pele’, he propelled Torpedo to two league crowns in 1960 and 1965.
However, it was first and foremost his exploits with the national team that left a lasting imprint on the game, his 26 goals in 59 encounters placing him third behind Oleg Blokhin and Oleg Protasov in the all-time Soviet scoring charts.
Ivanov initially came to international prominence at the 1956 Olympic Football Tournament in Melbourne. He may only have managed one goal in four matches, but the USSR nevertheless emerged victorious from the tournament, beating Yugoslavia 1-0 in the December final to claim gold.
Having developed a taste for success, the FIFA World Cup was the prolific forward’s next port of call. At Sweden 1958, the Soviets finished second in their pool behind eventual winners Brazil, before being eliminated 2-0 in the quarter-final by the host nation, who would later face the Brazilians in the Final.
Four years later at Chile 1962, Ivanov’s scoring prowess was at its peak, as evidenced by his four goals in four games, a total that saw him finish joint-top scorer, equal with Albert, Yugoslavia’s Drazen Jerkovic, Chile’s Leonel Sanchez and the Brazilian pair of Vava and Garrincha.
Ivanov would go on to take part in three victories during the qualification campaign for England 1966, but was not included in his nation’s final squad. In the meantime, he had lifted the UEFA EURO 1960 trophy in France, scoring a brace in the 3-0 semi-final win over Czechoslovakia, an achievement that enabled him to again share the title of leading goalscorer in a major tournament.
He also participated in the USSR’s run to the final four years later in Spain, where the defending champions were beaten 2-1 by the hosts in front of a crowd of 125,000.
After his retirement, he moved into coaching straight away, taking charge of Torpedo Moscow, the club closest to his heart, on several distinct occasions – from 1967 to 1970, 1973 to 1978, 1980 to 1991 and 1994 to 1996. He won the league in 1976 and the cup three times in 1968, 1972 and 1986. His only non-Torpedo position was a brief stint at the helm of Moroccan outfit Raja Casablanca during the 1992/93 season.
Ivanov’s son, also named Valentin, followed his father into football, but became better known for a different role, one he adopted after his playing days had come to an end. A former FIFA international referee, he officiated at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and at the EURO 2004 in Portugal.