Jano Ananidze 20 Midfielder Spartak Moscow
Having spent his youth career with both Dinamo Tbilisi and Dinamo Kiev before being snapped up by Spartak Moscow, it’s hard not to end up rather impressed by the Russian club’s fine scouting network. The Georgian was wrapped up as a youngster in Moscow before a clutch of clubs could blink. In Ananidze, they possess a wonderful little player with incredible touch, vision and execution. Capable of turning a game in a moment by scoring goals from almost any angle, he usually takes possession of the ball to the chorus of excited, expectant fans.
Assuming obviously that he gets chance to get on the pitch. In Ananidze, Spartak Moscow have a match winner but yet, it’s clear to see that they aren’t entirely sure what they want to do with him. Their succession planning, to steal a pretentious business term, is practically non-existent and it is hurting Ananidze.
He has rather inevitably been likened to Georgi Kinkladze as a player thanks to superb technical ability and neat turn of pace. Thankfully, the two merge nicely and allow Jano to race at defenders, fearful that he can turn any which way before they’ll have a chance to set themselves and react. The youngster also seems to combine a penchant for the spectacular and a winning ruthlessness in a harmony rarely seen of one so wrong. On occasion that he does get to turn out for Spartak and Georgia, he is lambasted much less than other eager youngsters who tend to try the memorable instead of the effective.
One of his biggest strengths is his reluctance to sit back and admire the fruits of his labour. Jano keeps looking for more and more from a game, even when the result is assured; although, that could be a symptom of his lack of opportunities rather than actual personal drive. Ananidze has struggled for a consistent chance in the last year and it will soon start to take a toll on his overall development.
Not once so in the 2012/13 season has Ananidze completed the full 90 minutes of a game; for club or country. He makes regular appearances for both, but it is usually curtailed to either the opening hour before being sacrificed to see out the game or a 30 minute cameo in the second half to keep his spirits up.
In the crunch, Ananidze is rarely relied upon. He is rarely trusted or deployed because he is so small he could fit in your pocket. Okay, not that small; but still pretty small.
At just under five feet and seven inches, Ananidze struggles with the physical side of football. Shoved off possession far too easily and having developed a worrying trend of picking up knocks, the Georgian playmaker should expect the situation to remain pretty similar until he figures out a way to make up for his stature.
Football, as a sport, has seen a rise in the numbers of small players plying their trade at the very highest level. Where once the order of the day was formidable man-beasts standing well over six feet tall and made of muscle from head-to-toe; it is now much more likely to see modern football sides electing for technically superior, swift footballers who can retain possession. Jano ticks all of those boxes, except the part about being able to handle himself when teams rock up with the intention of causing bodily harm.
Of course, the youngster’s problems are not all his own doing. It can only be assumed that Ananidze heeded the advice dealt out to him 12 months ago and has spent 2012 filling up on steak and kidney pies and it has been to no avail. No avail other than a hearty dinner every evening. His fast tracking through Georgia’s international ranks has earmarked him as something special for over four years. Jano played for the country of his birth at just 16 years of age.
Since then, he’s had to deal with being a boy in a man’s world as well as his rapid rise earmarking him for special attention. Like the Sunday League winger that sports an Alice band to get hair out of his face or dazzling pink boots; there was something different Jano from a young age and he’s had fully grown men trying to kick it out of him ever since.
In the last 12 months, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City have been linked with the young midfielder. Were he to pull on the blue of City, they’d be nothing the Etihad crowd would enjoy more than seeing the next Kinkladze strutting around their pitch.
It will come down to size for Jano. There isn’t the stigma that their used to be about short players. Enough have been through Europe’s top leagues and prospered to prove any theory wrong, but they’ve all shown an ability to put with the rough and tumble. Ananidze has stayed down too often or been forced off with knocks too regularly. The cold, frozen pitches of the Russian Premier League won’t have helped but once he manages to withstand them; cold, wet Wednesday nights in Stoke should see him racing out onto the park in short sleeves.
Ananidze has had a spotlight shining down on him since his international debut in September 2009 and there has been little proper, concentrated time for him to really grow as a player. There has potentially been a little too much discussion of just how big of a star he can become.
He’s still young and he still has every chance of reaching the sky, before going a bit beyond that; but he needs to spend a lot more of 2013 on the football pitch. The kid can go far, once he fills out and bulks up a little.
“One of the most technically gifted players in Russia, Ananidze is capable of magic - when he's allowed to. His small frame means Spartak have been reluctant to let him loose, and with their questionable youth record there is a worry his potential could be wasted. With Spaniard Unai Emery at the helm, Jano will be hoping that his latest manager is a little more appreciative of diminutive playmakers.” - Rob Dillon (More Than Arshavin)
“Perennial bench warmer in Unai Emery's faltering Spartak side. Talent is still awfully obvious, but in desperate need of games to prove it. Perhaps his physical frailty is a concern, but his technicality is wonderfully natural.” - Domm Norris (Slavic Football Union)
D Double the dosage of pies. Maybe try cake