Dynamo Kyiv are far from gaining a place in the top ten UEFA club rankings, but their history makes them one of the most important sides on the continent.
The Ukrainian powerhouses managed to delight Europe with their superb football over a span of 20 years, from 1970 until 1990. Those two decades were full of glorious moments for Dynamo Kyiv, with two UEFA Cup wins (1974/75 and 1985/86) and the UEFA Super Cup (in 1975). And outside of continental competition, the Ukrainians were also prolific when it came to domestic titles, first during the Soviet Union era and then, following the collapse of the USSR, in Ukraine’s Premier League.
When Dynamo Kyiv are discussed, one name lingers, being associated implicitly with the club: charismatic Ukrainian manger Valeriy Lobanovskyi. The legendary tactician, who passed away in 2002 at the age of just 63, was one of the masterminds of “modern football” and won several individual awards during his long managerial career; the Master of Sports of the USSR was handed to Lobanovskyi, while the UEFA Ruby Order of Merit was awarded posthumously and picked up by his family after his death.
The Ukrainian master led Dynamo Kyiv to glory with what was considered in some quarters to be a harsh disciplinarian approach at the club. However, Lobanovskyi’s talents went far beyond a hard-nosed managerial stance. He implemented a short-passing style and encouraged the players to work the ball from box to box before trying to score. This approach to the game was sustained by scientific methodology, with every detail meticulously planned. It was, at the time, different from anything else used in European football.
Those times were undoubtedly Dynamo Kyiv’s most glorious, but today they are only good for the club’s hall of fame and statistics. Dynamo Kyiv have not won the Ukrainian Premier League since the 2008/09 campaign and last term saw them out of the top two; something previously unthinkable. The club from Ukraine’s capital have been completely surpassed by their biggest rivals of the last 20 years, Shakhtar Donetsk. And this term looks to be the sum of all the team’s problems. With 12 games gone, Dynamo Kyiv sit fifth in the league standings, with three defeats and 15 goals conceded.
Led by arguably the club’s best ever player, Oleh Blokhin, Dynamo Kyiv are in real danger of missing out on the top two again. Blokhin is struggling to control his team and is nowhere near leading them to the glory years he experienced as a player. The 1975 European Footballer of the Year took the helm in 2012, in a desperate move by the club’s board to install some stability and a link with the past. But at present Blokhin is struggling to stir memories of better days.
The club spent much money over the summer, bringing in several quality foreign players such as Younes Belhanda, Dieumerci Mbokani and Jeremain Lens. But the new additions are struggling to fully adapt to Ukrainian football and, more specifically, their manager’s ideas. The team do not lack for talented players though, with one, Andriy Yarmolenko, already dubbed the “new Andriy Shevchenko”. The side’s vice-captain and one of their most influential, not even his skills have helped Dynamo Kyiv to avoid the quicksand which is sucking in the club. Blokhin is now facing severe criticism from supporters, while it has been claimed his relationship with the players is far from perfect. A crushing 9-1 win over Metalurg Donetsk on 6th October though has shown all is not lost if things can click together on a regular basis; Belhanda helped himself to a hat-trick in the game.
Things are still anything but easy for Blokin this season. Dynamo Kyiv are eight points behind league leaders Metalist Kharkiv and five points off rivals Shakhtar Donetsk. Unless the win over Metalurg Donetsk can be built on, the club will almost certainly experience their fifth season in a row of not winning the Ukrainian Premier League title, something which, for a side of Dynamo Kyiv’s standing, is completely unacceptable.
It remains to be seen whether the thrashing of Metalurg Donetsk will be the start of a surge up the table for Blokhin’s boys, or a flash in the pan. The talent is there, as the Metalurg Donetsk goalkeeper, picking the ball out of the back of his net nine times, will attest to. Blokhin now faces the challenge of ensuring another season of underachievement is not experienced, otherwise the legendary former player may go the same way of the last coach to lead the club to the Ukrainian Premier League title, but fail afterwards – Yuri Semi, who was sacked.