When news broke out in 1995 that Alan Ball had signed a Georgian international for Manchester City, many football fans may have got the wrong impression. The lazy and stereotypical of us were most likely envisioning a robust, tough tackling, emotionless, almost robotic figure, in a similar mould to Ivan Drago from the ‘Rocky IV’ movie. But Georgi Kinkladze was anything but. Those that had bothered to do their research would have found an attacking midfielder that had scored 41 goals in 65 games in his native homeland. Kinkladze was far from the muscle bound square chinned physique that some may have expected. He was small and compact, similar in stature to his hero Diego Maradona… To a vast majority of Man City fans he was Maradona.
Kinklade joined City during a dark period in the clubs life span, but the little Georgian magician quickly became a delightful ray of sunshine in an otherwise forgettable time. Kinkladze took his time to settle in England, living in hotels and struggling with the language, but this was never reflected on the pitch. ‘Kinky’ endeared himself to the Maine Road faithful by completing dribbles that were more complex looking than trigonometry and providing more excitement than a Christmas double bill of Coronation Street. When his mum made the move to Manchester, bringing with her traditional Georgian food, things just clicked into place. His crowning moment came on March 16th 1996, when he caused six Southampton players to look foolish before chipping over keeper Dave Beasant. Against Middlesbrough, in the same season, the game was billed as the battle of the playmakers, ‘Kinladze vs Juninho.’ Kinkladze opened the scoring with a free kick but ended up on the losing team 4-1. Yet despite the result the Georgian had made a huge impression, Boro fans voted him ‘The Best Opposing Player of the Season.’
Despite his majestic performances City found themselves relegated. He could have danced into a big money move with clubs such as Bracelona, Inter, Liverpool and Celtic interested, but he stayed loyal to the club that bought him to England. Again he showed flashes of brilliance in Division one, as City continued to struggle and Managers came in out of his life like unreliable male prostitutes. Joe Royal was the most unloving example of these, under him he became out of favour and City found themselves relegated for the second time in three years. At this point he jumped ship, shoved off the metaphorical plank in the direction of Ajax.
Kinkladze would return to England two years later, for a three year spell at Derby County. Again he displayed flashes of un-human like skill but never quite reached the level that had made him a cult hero at Manchester City.
When people think back to Kinkladze’s time in English football they will recall a success story at an unsuccessful club. Fan’s will remember solo runs, brain defying twists and feints, and a player that they wished played for their team. Georgi Kinkladze was a footballing Viagra pill, not quite powerful enough to help his team get it up. But rest assured anyone that encountered him had fun.
Here's a video of Kinkladze's best bits:
What memories do you have of Georgi Kinkladze?
image: © Corey-Adam Crowley