Georgian utility man Kakha Kaladze claims that the sight of his Kyiv Dynamo team-mate Alexey Gerasimenko sustaining a bad injury prompted him to leave Kyiv for Milan in January.
“A football career is very short and I want to go as far as I can in the game,” said Kaladze. “I’ve always dreamed of playing for a top club abroad, but I could have stayed at Kyiv, picked up an injury and it would all have been over for me. That’s why I asked Dynamo president Hryhorii Surkis to put me on the transfer list.”
Naturally, the club’s priority was to retain Kaladze, a highly-influential, athletic player who can operate either at the back or in midfield, and Surkis kept Milan at bay for over a year. However, Dynamo had to relent eventually since, with Kaladze’s contract coming to an end, they would risk losing him on a free transfer.
Kaladze began his career as a forward with Lokomotiv Samtredia, where his father Carlo was president, and in 1994 he accepted an invitation from legendary Georgian player and coach David Kipiani to join him at Dinamo Tbilisi. Kaladze made his debut for Tbilisi aged 16, scoring in the first minute, and a year later made his full international bow against Cyprus.
The moveto Ukraine and Kyiv Dynamo came in 1997. “I think Kyiv came in for me because of a good performance of mine in a World Cup 98 qualifier against Italy which ended 0-0,” says Kaladze. “In that game I was up against Christian Vieri and I marked him well.”
For Kyiv, Kaladze was to line up at full-back, stopper, libero and holding midfield, and such versatility was a key factor in Milan’s decision to recruit him. “He can play in so many positions, has lots of energy and is a very subtle player,” declared Milan chief Adriano Galliani. “He has integrated well into the Milan style and, frankly, I can’t understand why members of the press and some fans reacted to his arrival by claiming he wasn’t a great player. He is.”
Kaladze has a lot to feel satisfied about. He is a first-teamer at one of Europe’s most prestigious clubs and Milan have been winning regularly since he arrived. Yet he wants more.
“I’m very ambitious,” says the Georgian. “A contract with Milan does not guarantee me a good life. I hope to gain titles and trophies with them.”
Club Milan (Ita)
Born February 27, 1978, in Tbilisi
Previous clubs Lokomotiv Samtredia, Dinamo Tbilisi, Kyiv Dynamo (Ukr)
International debut August 1995, v Cyprus
International caps 27 (0 goals)
Honours Georgian League 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997; Georgian Cup 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997; Ukrainian League 1998, 1999, 2000; Ukrainian Cup 1998, 1999