It has been said many times that true greatness is fleeting, and never has a truer word been said about this player for Rangers.
Ask any fan who was there to witness it on Saturday 13th of October 1990 at Ibrox, and they will tell you they saw greatness in all its glory.
Unfortunately for us Rangers fans, this greatness wasn’t to last, just one game and 20 minutes later, in the centre circle of the newly built McDermott Park it was snatched away, just as quick as it arrived. With that went the world-class talent of Oleg Kuznetsov.
It’s crazy to think of now, but back in 1990 this was seen as a real coup for Rangers, a statement signing that would help the Ibrox side in there quest to conquer Europe.
Kuznetsov was a complete defender, one who could play in midfield shielding the back line, or at his favoured position of centre back. He really was a world class player, and after lengthy negotiations, and having to wait until October of 1990 Rangers got their man, for a whopping £1.2 million from Dynamo Kiev.
Kuznetsov was no stranger to the Ibrox faithful, having been part of the Dynamo Kiev side, together with Alexi Mykhaylychenko, that lost 2-1 on aggregate to Rangers in the 1987 European Cup first round tie. This was seen as a fantastic result for us, with the at the time Soviet side capturing the Cup Winners’ Cup just two seasons before, under the guidance of legendary head coach Valeriy Lobanovskyi, thrashing Spanish side Athletico Madrid 3-0 in the final, Kuznetsov playing the staring role at the back.
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For our younger readers, it is quite hard to stress just how highly thought of a player Kutsnetzov was, as a centre-half he had finished 11th and 17th respectively in the Ballon d’Or in 1987 and 1988, quite a feat I’m sure you’ll agree.
He arrived at Ibrox with a huge pedigree, medals, and International honours, everything you could want in a player.
Kuznetsov was a major reason the USSR had reached the final of Euro ’88, the cultured player helping set up his country’s opening goal, in the semi-final victory over favourites Italy. It is no coincidence, such was his influence in the team, that with the suspended Kuznetsov missing from the final, the Dutch ran out comfortable 2-0 winners, in a match best remembered for Marco van Basten’s incredible strike from a seemingly impossible angle. He had also represented his country in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, cementing his reputation as one of the world’s best defenders at the time.
The cruciate ligament injury suffered at St Johnstone by Kuznetsov, just 20 minutes into his second game, was a truly devastating blow to both the player and his new club. Rangers fans would never see again Kuznetsov at his world-class best, and although he recovered, most notably scoring at Parkhead in a 4-2 win in 1994, a game that saw Ally Maxwell in the Rangers goal attacked by Celtic fans invading the pitch, a serious of niggling injuries and failure to claim a regular place saw him move to Maccabi Haifa in 1994.
Kuznetsov was not the first, nor will he be the last to suffer a serious injury, robbing him of his top-class talent, but for Rangers fans of a certain generation, he was the best that never was.
Let me know what you think.