Georgi Kinkladze is a Manchester City hero, making more than 100 appearances for the Citizens in a period less glamorous than what they’re currently enjoying. Winning two consecutive Player of the Year awards at City, Kinkladze achieved hero status for his mazy dribbling - expertly witnessed with his goal against Southampton on March 16, 1996.
Agonisingly missing out on survival by goal difference, with Southampton the beneficiaries, City suffered relegation that season. Despite that, Kinkladze’s goal gave the club a much better chance of staying up, and will go down as one of the Premier League’s most skillful goals.
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo, Kinkladze described the importance of that goal and the sheer quality he displays as he dribbles past four Southampton players before delicately chipping the hapless keeper.
A solo stunner from Georgi Kinkladze 🙌#GoalOfTheDay pic.twitter.com/wykbKPEaX4May 25, 2019
“I didn’t even realise it was that long ago – 25 years, and I think I dribbled past 25 people! It was unforgettable. In addition to being beautiful, it was a six pointer as well; we both were battling against relegation and after that win we went six points ahead. I remember the chairman, Francis Lee, telling me, ‘I’ve been in English Football for decades and I’ve never, ever seen an ovation this long’.”
After initially struggling in England, Kinkladze’s class soon shone through, all while City were battling to stay in the league, rather than winning titles. Speaking English was a problem, although that clearly didn’t stop the playmaker.
“There were problems with it in the beginning, but to be fair, with what I was doing on the field not much talking was needed anyway. The first words I learned were: ‘Give me the ball’ and ‘get in space’ - and I made do with those.”
Although Kinkladze endured relegation with City, he stuck around as the club dropped to the Championship. While top clubs understandably touted his signature, the Georgian stayed loyal to the Manchester side - something he doesn’t regret.
“Never in my life have I or will I regret that. First off, there is no point regretting things that happened decades ago, that’s not going to get you anywhere. I might not have won anything with City, but I saw and felt what I meant for the fans. I could not have betrayed that trust. I am not the kind of guy who abandons a sinking ship.
“More than 25 years have passed since, but the fans still remember me. Every now and then a Georgian flag is waved there as a homage and I couldn’t have wished for more respect and appreciation, really.
“For an English fan, who you are is as important as your skill on the pitch. I experienced it myself. When you are in peak form, obviously they cheer for you. But when you return years later, with your career long over, and you see they still give you a standing ovation, that’s something different and a feeling I would struggle to put into words.
“There were several cases when die-hard City fans were kneeling with my posters in hand, with ‘Don’t Leave’ written in Georgian letters. How can you leave after something like that?”
Interview: Vazha Tavberidze and Rati Shelegia
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