Ambitious Arveladze still looking ahead
Back in the days when defenders trembled in his presence, Shota Arveladze was never known to waste the chance to get forward. Permanently focused on goal, the striker's thirst for finding the net helped him plunder 26 strikes in 61 outings for Georgia – still a national record – and, despite switching to coaching four years ago, he remains governed by very similar instincts.
"I'm not the kind of person who looks back," Arveladze told FIFA.com, the retired forward now striving to proving his worth at Turkish club Kayseripsor. "My past as a player is what it is and obviously has its own importance, but I prefer to look forward. I'm a coach now, and I want to find out what I'm capable of achieving in this role."
Understandable though that sentiment is, it would be remiss to overlook Arveladze's playing career, the Tbilisi native and legend in his homeland having written his name into the history books of every club he turned out for. Between his professional debut with Dynamo Tbilisi in 1992 and his last appearance for Levante in 2008, he racked up no fewer than 291 goals in 410 league games, topping the scoring charts in Georgia, Turkey and the Netherlands.
Along the way, Arveladze won four league titles with Dynamo in Georgia, a Turkish Cup with Trabzonspor and a league and cup double during his time with Ajax. But it was with Rangers that the marksman enjoyed his greatest triumphs, making a telling contribution as the Glasgow giants completed a memorable treble in 2002/03, claiming the championship crown, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup. "I'm very saddened by what's happening to the club now," he said. "When you've been part of Rangers, that stays with you for the rest of your life. I loved the city and I loved the club. I hope from the bottom of my heart that they pick themselves back up again quickly."
Despite that long succession of highs on the pitch, he has yet to experience the same success in the dugout. His first taste of coaching came as an assistant at AZ Alkmaar – one of his former clubs as a player – and after learning the ropes under Louis van Gaal, Ronald de Boer and then Dick Advocaat, he answered the call of Kayserispor in 2010. The initial signs could hardly have been more encouraging as his side narrowly missed out on a European place in his maiden season, but their follow-up campaign proved far more difficult, and the Anadolu Yıldızı (Star of Anatolia) eventually finished 11th in the standings.
"We've had highs and lows," said Arveladze. "My team is the youngest in the league and I think we played good football. We just need to win more points, and I hope we'll combine quality play with results next season." Whether they manage that or not, what is certain is that the 39-year-old will savour the challenge either way. "Pleasure generally comes from success, but it's true that I'm appreciating this second life. Being a coach allows me to have a new approach to football which is very different from the one I had as a player. It's fascinating."
With a new role comes new dreams, of course, but, perhaps surprisingly, Arveladze feels no burning desire to coach the Georgia team he once represented with such panache. "It's not one of my ambitions," he explained, preferring to watch the national side's progress from afar. And there are plenty of reasons for supporters to be optimistic, the Jvarosnebi (Crusaders) having notably beaten Croatia 1-0 and earned a 1-1 draw with Greece and a goalless stalemate with Israel during their failed bid to reach UEFA EURO 2012. Those performances have raised hopes ahead of the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, with Georgia drawn alongside Spain, France, Belarus and Finland in Group I.
"Georgia is brimming with talented players," noted Arveladze, mindful of the likes of Levan Kobiashvili, Jano Ananidze and Georgi Ivanishvili. "I have real hopes for the younger generation, the players who are 20 or 21. Lots of efforts have been made in terms of infrastructure, training and football academies." Looking forward as ever, the retired icon is now convinced that Georgia's brightest days lie ahead. "I think all of that will bear fruit in the near future."