"It feels like I'm living a dream and am afraid to wake up; this life is a gift"
He said it and he meant it, four years ago: “I’m here to stay,” he announced. After winning over the wary, the press and the public - there was plenty of scepticism at first about ‘the Russian who has come to sort out Marbella’ - time has proved him right. Alexander Grinberg is living a dream: Marbella is the one of the best clubs in Spain in terms of numbers after seven consecutive victories, although it lost last weekend. He joined forces with Italian Raffaele Pandalone and the club became stronger. 100 people used to go to watch matches at the municipal stadium, and now 1,800 do, but his challenge is to fill the stadium in order to move up to second division.
–How do you feel, when you look at that historic record of seven consecutive wins?
–I worry about the future. Everything that has happened to me since I came here has been like a fairy tale, a gift. We still have a lot of work to do to reach the objective we have set ourselves. That’s a story we have to write.
–After finishing a very difficult season, coming close to relegation, you must have been certain in the summer that you didn’t want another experience like that.
– I saw what I had done wrong, over these years. I knew where I had to go. At the moment, it looks as if I was right. I needed to look for a good sports manager like Alessandro Gaucci, some time ago.
–Things are better now than they have been since you arrived. What are you enjoying most about this situation?
–It’s making me nervous. I’m not worried any more that the money I was investing was going down thedrain, though. Now I can spend more time building up the youth section, doing more marketing...
–Have you already prepared the bonuses for moving up?
–Yes, modern football is a business. It’s logical for the players to expect a bonus if they achieve our objective.
–How much have you invested since taking over the club?
–I have all the figures, I’m on top of the financial situation, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to say how much I have invested. People say that the players and trainers in general earn a lot of money and I don’t think this is the time to talk about something like that. It’s a reasonable sum, and the right amount to have spent.
–When do you think you will see a return on your investment?
–It is obvious that the clubs in Segunda B are in deficit. We need to move up to Segunda to recover the money, and hopefully we will do that next year. Here in Marbella people don’t go to watch football and we have worked very hard on that. We have a good stadium and a team that plays well and wins. We have the cheapest tickets in the Liga. I’m doing all this and it still isn’t enough to make people come to the stadium. But I’ll put up with it because I’m sure that we will be able to fill it one day.
–When will the ‘sports city’ open?
–Next year, I think. Everything takes its own time.
–Did you ever think on giving up on your project?
–You do think like that on difficult days. It happened to me when we had to play away from Marbella (problems with the grass). I used to get angry when my youth section wasn’t given enough time to train in the municipal stadiums and at times like that, yes, I did think about giving up and spending all my time on the beach. Now we do have a better relationship with the Town Hall, though.
–Will Marbella have a new stadium in the Segunda División?
–If Marbella is in the Segunda we’ll have to do something. We could either rebuild the existing one or build a new one. I would prefer a new one. Marbella deserves a modern stadium with room for at least 10,000 spectators. It could be used for other things, like concerts. I have had meetings about this and we are working on it. It could be somewhere close to Marbella, and I’m looking at different locations.
–What is your life like in Marbella?
–My life in Marbella is like a fairytale; every morning when I wake up I’m afraid it will all come to an end because I feel as if I’m living in a continual dream. Life here is comfortable, the people are great and I’m very happy. I love living and working here.
–Who has been at your side? Who has played an important part in getting this far?
–We have a very young working team. A great deal of merit has to go to our CEO, Teo Bravo, who has made the club more professional and increased the capacity for work. María Martos is the veteran of the club, she’s the secretary, and there are plenty of other people who have been with me during these four years.
–How do a Russian and an Italian understand each other enough to get Marbella into Segunda División?
–It’s very strange! We have an international team and my partner is Italian, Pandalone. All communications are in Spanish, the official language, but neither of us understands it. Raffaele has improved a great deal, I think he studied well. I can’t say the same about my Spanish, but if we move up then I promise to study it properly.
–Your stays in Marbella are getting longer all the time. Have you put the club ahead of your businesses in Russia?
–My business interests are more in Marbella now. I have great plans for developing the club and other businesses in Spain, that’s why I spend more time here. I am focusing on the restaurant business, the property sector and the construction of the sports city.
–Where do you see yourself in three years’ time?
–I’d still like to be the president of Marbella, a team which by then is in the Segunda División. When I arrived I said we would play Barcelona and beat them one day. We are getting closer to making that joke a reality.
–Which player makes you jump out of your seat with excitement?
–At first I didn’t know who they all were, because there had been so many changes! Now I know all their names and which positions they play. I can’t pick just one, though, because the strength of this team is as a group. They are a family.source surinenglish