Last-ditch disappointments have been the lot of CSKA Moscow and Russia’s Rolan Gusev in the past few months. The tricky right-winger or playmaker was unexpectedly left out of the World Cup squad last summer and suffered more 11th-hour heartbreak recently when his club were defeated 1-0 by city rivals Lokomotiv in the League championship play-off decider.
After taking part in five of the World Cup qualifiers and starting the 2002 domestic season in vibrant form following a move from Dinamo Moscow to CSKA, Gusev had good reason to believe he would be included in the 23-man party for Korea/Japan. But national boss Oleg Romantsev ignored him.
Gusev claims the reason was that the coach was punishing him for signing for CSKA rather than Moscow Spartak, where Romantsev also coaches.
“From the moment I decided against joining Spartak, I knew he might react like that,” said Gusev, who came through the Dinamo youth ranks.
“But although it hurt to be pushed out of the national team at such an important time, I don’t regret choosing CSKA over Spartak.”
The player would gain his revenge at club level. While Romantsev’s Spartak, the defending champions, finished the 2002 campaign in a poor third place, Gusev was inspiring CSKA during a titanic struggle for the title with Lokomotiv.
The player enjoyed the most productive goalscoring season of his career, netting 15 times to jointly claim the national golden boot with team-mate Dmitri Kirichenko. His dribbling virtuosity, sublime passing and outstanding delivery from set-pieces were equally vital to the rise of CSKA.
Although his side failed at the last, losing to Lokomotiv in the specially staged championship play-off match, there has been good news for Gusev on the international front.
Russia’s first-round exit from the World Cup brought an end to the Romantsev era; his successor, CSKA boss Valeri Gazzayev – who intends to combine his national team and club duties – made the recall of Gusev a top priority.
Understandably, Gusev is a fan of the new Russia boss, saying: “Gazzayev is the right man for the job. He has proved what a good leader he is at CSKA, Alaniya Vladikavkaz and for our Under-21s.”
Club CSKA Moscow
Born September 17, 1977, in Ashkhabad
Previous clubs Dinamo Dubil, Dinamo Moscow
International debut May 2000, v Slovakia
International caps 13 (0 goals)
Honours Russian Cup 2002 (CSKA)