Несколько дней назад ЦСКА подписал контракт с лучшим на сегодняшний день центровым России Алексеем Саврасенко. В последние два месяца этот игрок не выступал ни в одном клубе. Из-за конфликта с тренером он был вынужден покинуть греческий «Олимпиакос», а вот расторгнуть контракт с этой командой оказалось нелегким занятием.
Aleksey Savrasenko: My career comes first
A few days ago CSKA signed Russia’s current best center Aleksey Savrasenko. For the past two months, Savrasenko has not played for any team. Due to a contact with the coach he was forced to leave the Greek club Olympiakos, and getting out of the contract with this club proved to be difficult.

- Was there a chance for you to sign a contract with CSKA in the offseason?

“Yes, CSKA called me after the World Championships in Indianapolis, where I was playing for the Russian national team. There were other opportunities, also, including in America. But I wasn’t able to hold contract discussions, as I had a contract with Olympiakos. So none of it was very serious.”

- Did CSKA have any rivals in the fight for your contract when you went to Greece?

“The Spanish club TAU was interested in me almost immediately after I left. But CSKA offered the best conditions. But that’s not the most important thing. I know what CSKA is about this year. It is a new team with a new structure which has been changed drastically with the arrival of Sergey Kushchenko. I know that the CSKA General Director from his work with the national team. He is a man of his word. And for me right now that is very important.”

- Did you want to return to Russia? Did that play a role in your decision?

Of course I wanted to play in Russia. But until now I didn’t have the opportunity. I was bound by my multi-year contract with Olympiakos. According to Greek law, a player younger than 21 years old signs a special long-term contract, and then after he turns 21, he signs another one. So I had two obligations to Olympiakos.”

- Could it be said that you became a real basketball player not in Russia, but in Greece? Are you offended by your motherland?

“There’s nothing to be offended about. I’m very happy that I landed in good hands in my first year in Greece: the hands of Dusan Ivkovic. He was the one who made me a professional athlete. The made the first efforts to get me playing in big-time basketball. And as I turns out, I’ve returned to the same coach. It is probably fate.”

- Now that you have become a CSKA player, would you say that the risk you took leaving Olympiakos was justified?

“I had my doubts. I was scared that I would remain without a club and not be able to play basketball at all. There were difficulties and happy moments. Of course, it was a huge risk. But I think it was a great victory for CSKA that they were able to pry me away. It was a fight from beginning to end. I didn’t think that things would end well. There was the critical day when I let my arms down. I thought that maybe it’s time to return. Although I knew full well that with such a relationship with the coach, I wouldn’t be able to contribute any more to Olympiakos. And then I had a plane ticket to Spain in my hands, where I was to sign a contract with TAU. I wanted to stay at CSKA. I saw that this is an excellent team. But the circumstances at the time were stronger than I was. Only at the very last moment did the club call me and tell me that my problems were solved and that everything would be fine. That was the happiest moment for me in this entire story, but I had to wait exactly two months. And two months is a long, long time.”

- What did your friends in Greece think of your decision?

“When I made the decision, only one person knew: my older sister, with who I lived together in Greece. My friends and family didn’t know. Finally the situation reached a point where I had to make a decision. My sister supported me, and when my friends found out, they also supported me.”

- Did you arrive in Moscow alone or with your girlfriend?

“I am not married yet and am currently without a girlfriend.”

- And your plans…?

“My plans for the next year and a half are to play for CSKA. My career has always come first for me. Everything else -including my personal life – comes after that.”

- Your relatives aren’t pressuring you?

“Absolutely not. They are very relaxed about the current state of things and think that there will always be time. I hope that in a year and a half I can make up for the seven years in Greece.”

- Do you know Moscow well?

“Moscow is a very large city, even compared to Athens. Right now, to be honest, I’m not very well oriented. I think I’ll get to know Moscow better in the near future.”

- Where did you vacation when you were playing in Greece?

“Every year I tried to come back to Krasnodar for at least a week. Almost all of my relatives live there: my father, mother and grandmother. The rest of the time that remained after training camps and championships I would spend on the Greek islands. It’s quieter there. I would be recognized in Athens and stopped everywhere.”

- Is basketball very popular in Greece?

“Sports are very popular there in general. All the players are known by their faces. People stop you on the street to wish you luck or ask for an autograph. It’s very nice.”

- Do people recognize you in Russia?

“In Krasnodar they’ve started to recognize me the past two years or so – since I’ve begun playing on the national team and the national press began interviewing me. In Moscow they don’t recognize me yet. But that’s natural. The city is too big, and sports here aren’t that popular.”

- In different basketball guides there is different information not only about your height, but also about your birthday. Can you tell us what’s actually correct?

“I was born on February 28, 1979. I am 217cm tall with shoes on, 215cm without. I weight 118 kg. So I’m young and have potential. By the way, my father gets very upset when the guides print incorrect information about me.”

- Recently CSKA has treated its fans to players with long-term, three-year contracts. Yours is only for a year and a half. Do you have any big plans for the future?

“For right now a year and a half is enough. We’ll see how my relationship with CSKA develops. If they’re still interested in me after the current contract, then why not sign a new one?”

- Do you know a lot about the Russia league?

“Right now, no. But it was interesting for me to watch a few game. For example, I say the Ural Great vs Khimki game, as well as the CSKA games against Lokomotiv and Spartak St. Petersburg. By the looks of these games, there’s quite a difference between Euroleague and Russian league games.”

- There is the opinion now that the Russian league is getting closer and closer to the level of the leading European leagues. What’s your opinion on this?

“There are three very strong clubs in the Russian league: CSKA, Ural Great and UNIKS. Lokomotiv, in my opinion, played their best game against CSKA, and they still have to prove that they belong in this group.”

- Are you upset at the fact that you won’t be able to play for CSKA in the upcoming Euroleague games?

“Yes. It’s important for a professional player to get on track from the very beginning of the season. It’s a lot easier to do that if you play a lot of games. As it is now, the team will have to play differently, and I’ll have to rest a few weeks.”

- CSKA’s first game after signing you will be with Olympiakos. Aside from the actual circumstances, would you like to play in this game?

“Yes, of course. But it’s not possible right now. I hope it’s only for right now.”


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