Now in his prime at the age of 29, Ukraine international Anatoliy Tymoschuk started out as a pro in his home town of Lutsk in 1995, where he spent two seasons with local club Volyn. The holding midfielder switched to Shakhtar Donetsk in 1997, going on to score 32 goals in 227 appearances, and made a significant contribution to Shakhtar’s seven domestic league titles in this period.
After a decade at Ukraine’s leading club, he crossed the border to Russian outfit Zenit St. Petersburg in February 2007, finishing his first season with another league championship medal. In 2008, the 1.82 metre (5 ft 11 ½ in) enforcer captained his side to triumphs in the UEFA Cup and European Super Cup. The 2002, 2006 and 2008 Ukrainian Player of the Year also fills a vital role as vice-captain of his national team.
The man who appears set for a move to Bayern Munich this year spoke to FIFA.com about his role and responsibilities on the field of play, his personal future, and FIFA World Cup™ qualifying with Ukraine.
FIFA.com: Anatoliy Tymoschuk, I hope 2009 has started well for you. What are your goals this year?
Anatoliy Tymoschuk: Many thanks. First of all, I’d like to wish everyone who loves football, and especially everyone who plays, all the best for 2009. The game makes people happier. In terms of my personal goals, I always set my sights as high as possible, and I’ll do my best to hit the targets I’ve set myself.
We’ll talk about the future a little later, but let’s first look back to 2008. You triumphed in the UEFA Cup with Zenit St. Petersburg, but finished a disappointing fifth in the Russian Premier Liga. What’s your take on last year?
It was a fantastic year for our club. We won three trophies in 2008: the Russian Super Cup, the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup. Everyone will have forgotten our fifth-place finish in a couple of years, but the two European trophies will always be part of our history.
This season, you’ve missed out on the UEFA Champions League knockout stages and you’re now back in the UEFA Cup, where your next opponents are VfB Stuttgart. What are you aiming to achieve on the European stage?
Experience is a significant factor in these competitions. We didn’t have enough of it for the Champions League, although we actually played very well. It’s a shame we didn’t make the next stage, but at least we’re still in the UEFA Cup. We’re aiming very high as a team, and we’ll do whatever it takes to achieve our goals. The task now is to be fully prepared for the knockout rounds.
You’re generally regarded as a hard-working, technically adept footballer, who’s also good for a goal or two. Is that a fair description of yourself?
I’m the kind of guy you’d call “fully committed”. I aim to win every game I play. I’m a battler, and I’ll always give my best for the team.
The holding midfield position is becoming more and more important every season. How would you define your role, both for your club and for your country?
I started out in football as a striker. I’ve changed position nine times since then, but I’m extremely comfortable with my current role in defensive midfield. Switching positions a lot was a valuable experience, and I do think versatility is a real advantage. My role on the pitch is certainly an important one, but I regard the entire midfield unit as a vital factor in maintaining the balance within a team. My priority is to prevent goals being scored, but I’m always ready to get forward if the opportunity arises. The game’s getting faster with every passing season, which means the players have to be smarter. We need to think and act faster than before.
Turning to your personal future, is there a dream club Anatoliy Tymoschuk would love to play for one day?
Every player who has the desire to make progress also has a dream. Even as a boy, I wanted to play for my country, win trophies, take part in a World Cup, and play in a top European league. I’m trying to realise these dreams step by step. They can come true, as I’ve found out for myself last year. I’m now hoping I can fulfil my remaining dreams.
Bayern Munich, Germany’s most successful club, have made an offer for you, but you’ve yet to make a final decision over your future.
Bayern initially contacted Zenit to if they’d consider a transfer back in August 2008. At the present time, everything depends on negotiations between the clubs. I’ll be able to say more once they’ve reached a deal. I don’t feel under any kind of pressure, and I’m currently preparing myself for the new season in Russia. Any transfer is a matter for the two clubs.
Turning to the international scene, Ukraine are currently engaged in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. After two wins and a draw from your first three games, you lie third in European Zone Group 6 behind England and Croatia. What are you hoping to take from your forthcoming games, and how would you rate your group opponents?
We need good results, we need to play high-quality football, and we need desire and the will to win from the first minute until the last. I think we’ve landed in a tough group with very difficult opponents. Every match is unpredictable. We’re level on points with Croatia at the moment and have a number of crucial matches coming up. We have several new faces in the team, we’re in a transitional phase, and that’ll require time and patience. There are a number of favourites on paper, but what happens on the field of play is what counts.
You played at Germany 2006. What are your memories of the tournament two and a half years ago, and what are your expectations of the first global showdown on African soil?
2006 was my first World Cup, and I have to say it was fantastically well-organised. I have very positive memories of Germany. We were supported by millions of Ukrainians all over the world. We had an excellent tournament, we delighted our fans, and we provided them with some fabulous moments. I spent the day of the Final in Milan, and I won’t be forgetting the celebrations there in a hurry. I’m aware of what the World Cup means to billions all over the globe. After you’ve been to the World Cup once, it’s a tournament you’re determined to experience again. Our national team will do our level best to be part of South Africa 2010. Africa loves football, which is why the continent deserves to host the tournament. The event is a massive opportunity to boost the game and the country. It promises to be an unforgettable festival.
FIFA World Cup TicketingThe FIFA World Cup is an incomparable event. If you plan on attending South Africa 2010, be sure to sign up, for free, to the FIFA.com Club before ticket sales begin on 20 February. It's just another reason to join The Club, which also includes Fantasy Football and Predictor games, complete with fantastic prizes.