Vladimir Latunov’s 22-year rampage across Eastern Europe was finally at an end as his FC Ural Yekaterinburg side lifted the Russian title for the first time in their history in 2042.
This latest success saw the 58-year-old manager achieve his goal of dominating Eastern Europe by winning every top-tier title in the region. He added the Russian Premier League trophy to his reign of tyranny across Eastern Europe, which also saw him lift titles in Poland, Turkey, Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, Belarus and Bulgaria.
Vladimir Latunov’s managerial history
Vladimir Latunov began his managerial career in Poland as a fledgling Russian boss with Zaglebie Lubin. With his burly Russian security guards at his side, he won the Polish Cup in his first season. That caught the attention of Polish giants Legia Warsaw, where he immediately won the Polish title in 2022.
That success alerted Turkish giants Galatasaray, where he won successive national titles in 2023 and 2024. After two years in Turkey, and taking a tilt at conquering the rest of Europe, he looked elsewhere and joined Hungarian side Honvéd, where it took him two years to win the title.
He then moved to Czech Republic with Viktoria Plzen, where he won the title at the first attempt in 2027. A move to Croatia followed, where he joined Rijeka and led them to the league and cup double after two years in charge in 2029.
Two titles in two years followed as he cruised to the Romanian title with FCSB in 2030 then dominated Ukraine with a league and cup double in charge of Shakhtar Donetsk in 2031.
He shook things up a little by moving to the second tier of Slovakian football with FC Nitra, where he gained promotion in 2032 then won the national title in 2033. Another taste of second tier football arrived in Serbia, where he took charge of FK Radnicki 1923 and immediately got them promoted. Radnicki saw his longest stay at a club as he won the title in his third year as manager in 2036.
Next up was a move to Slovenia, where he won a first-ever title for NK Celje in 2037. He then moved to Belarussian side Torpedo Zhodino, who sacked him after he managed to save them from relegation before cruising the job market for opportunities. Back on the job hunt, he stayed in Belarus with Dinamo Minsk and led them to the title in 2038.
Next up was a move to Bulgaria with CSKA-Sofia, who he led to success over the dominant Ludogorets in the summer of 2040. That meant just one country remained on his list and he joined FC Ural, where he lifted the Russian title in his second season in 2042.
Latunov’s all-time best team
Latunov’s 22 years of management may not have been all fun and games. The experience of briefly working with Nicklas Bendtner in his very first season, for example, was a haunting one that he managed to put well behind him.
The Dane aside, however, Latunov’s career saw him work with some great players across Eastern Europe. The pick of those in terms of pure quality has to be striker Zijad Handzic, who scored 43 goals in 40 games and won the European Golden Shoe in Latunov’s second season at Rijeka. Handzic went on to play for Liverpool and AC Milan, with whom he just scored his 200th league goal in 357 appearances for all clubs.
However, Latunov’s all-time favourite player was Sandro Luiz, who he signed three times. The Brazilian scored a career total of 212 league goals in 619 appearances But 93 of those goals were in 144 appearances for Latunov – and he only scored 94 in 408 league games for Chapacoense!
Sitting down to review his managerial career, Latunov selected his all-time XI as:
Goalkeeper: Károly Májer (Honvéd and Rijeka)
Right-back: Vasily Averjanov (Dinamo Minsk)
Centre-back: Nemanja Vesic (FCSB and FC Nitra)
Centre-back: Samo Oblak (Celje and CSKA-Sofia)
Left-back: Eduard Sobol (Plzen)
Centre midfield: Victor Kovalenko (Galatasaray and Shakhtar)
Centre midfield: Alan Patrick (Legia)
Right wing: Lukas Kalman (Nitra and Dinamo Minsk)
Left wing: Dusan Bezdicka (Plzen and Rijeka)
Striker: Zijad Handzic (Rijeka)
Striker: Sandro Luiz (Honvéd, Plzen and CSKA-Sofia)
Honourable mention has to go to Mbaye Diagne, who scored a club record and European Golden Shoe winning 46 goals in Latunov’s first season in Turkey. His replacement Nahuel Ferreyra scored 28 in 39 in Latunov’s second season in Galatasaray and later joined him in Croatia with Rijeka. Fellow strikers Nikola Milosevic, who became Radnicki’s all-time record goalscorer during his time in Serbia, and Deivids Kalnins, who scored a club record 24 goals in 28 games in Nitra’s title win, are also fondly remembered.
Other notable players include South African winger Thembinkosi Jousse, who scored 29 goals in a season in Shakhtar, Brazilian left-winger Nellinho broke the goals and assists in a season record at Celje, and Kingsley Coman was brilliant at two clubs. Defensive favourites included NK Celje’s Tilen Kramar and young centre-backs Igor Jovanovic and Matar Coulibaly, who earned a move to Man City, at Radnicki. While Ural players Yordan Syurdzhiev and Enes Vrbnjak have also excelled and could go on to be top quality players.
But Latunov would always have particular memories of Zaglebie workhorse Lukasz Poreba in his very first season. His other favourites included Legia left-back Filip Mladenovic, Galatasaray left-back Layvin Kurzawa, Torpedo and Minsk striker Dmitry Timoshenk, his 16-year-old sensation Vadim Perekhod at Minsk and, in particular, Ukrainian winger Khamzat Shishkanov, who remains a top player at Shakhtar. And who can forget the impact that Brazilian attacker Diego Maradona had on the Radnicki 1923 title win?
Latunov’s former clubs in 2042
After spells in charge of 15 clubs in the last 22 years, it’s safe to say the Russian has plenty of former haunts to reflect on.
KGHM Zaglebie Lubin: Zaglebie have remained in the Polish top tier, finished third twice in 2023 and 2041, but dropped to 10th in the season just gone.
Legia Warszawa: Legia remain a powerhouse of Polish football, winning six further titles since Latunov departed, including the most recent title in 2042.
Galatasaray: The Turkish giants have won 12 of the 18 titles since Latunov left the club in 2024. They were also Europa League runners-up in 2039.
Honvéd: Honvéd have only become Hungarian champions three times since Latunov departed and finished as low as seventh (out of 12) twice. They finished fourth in 2042.
Viktoria Plzen: Plzen have gone on to dominate Czech football with nine titles since Latunov left the club in 2027. They’ve also won six FA Cups in that time.
HNK Rijeka: Rijeka have also enjoyed success since the Russian’s departure, winning five further titles. They finished second to Dinamo in 2042.
FCSB: FCSB won five straight titles after Latunov left, finished third and fourth, then won two more titles before finishing second in 2042.
Shakhtar Donetsk: Shakhtar have won six titles since Latunov moved on, but appear to have been surpassed by Dynamo Kyiv. They finished as low as fifth in 2039 followed by three successive second places.
FC Nitra: Nitra won one more title since Latunov led them to glory and maintained top four status until 2040. However, they finished seventh in 2041 and down in eighth (out of 12) in the season just finished.
FK Radnicki 1923: Radnicki haven’t added to their sole Serbian title but have established themselves as a top five club. They finished third in 2041 but dropped to fifth in 2042.
NK Celje: Celje have had a bit of a fall from grace since their title win in 2037. They dropped to sixth (out of 10) in 2040 and just finished 7th in 2042.
Torpedo Zhodino: The only club to sack Vladimir Latunov, Zhodino got relegated in 2041! They currently sit fourth in the Belarussian First Division, eight points off the top after 10 games.
Dinamo Minsk: Dinamo immediately surrendered their title to Brest, who’ve won two titles sandwiched by one for BATE since Latunov left. Minsk finished fifth, fourth and third, and are currently third after nine games.
Football World in 2042
Man City have become easily the best team in the world, winning an outrageous eight of the last ten Champions Leagues – having never previously won it before then. They also have five of the top seven highest reputation players in the world! Atletico have won the Champions League five times, Chelsea and Liverpool have won two and Napoli, Bayern, Tottenham, Man United and PSG all have one win.
The Europa League has been a bit more interesting, with Besiktas and Trabzonspor winning it in 2040 and 2041. Tottenham have won it a mighty six times, Man United four, Benfica three, Dortmund two, while Liverpool, Napoli and Leicester have won it once.
The 2042 World Cup Final saw England beat France 1-0 with a 90th-minute penalty. England also won it in 2022 followed by Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Spain again. France won the first two Euros, England won it in 2028, Belgium won the next two and France won it again in 2040.
Do svidaniya, Vladimir Latunov
With a slightly heavy heart but happy that he’d achieved all his career goals, Vladimir Latunov signed his resignation letter and stepped down as manager of FC Ural at the end of June 2042. He reflected on an exciting career that, despite not being the most loyal, had taken him to massive, high-pressure clubs like Galatasaray and Shakhtar to more sedate and probably more enjoyable sides like the homegrown nature of his squads at FC Nitra, NK Celje and FK Radnicki 1923.
But his time was done and Vladimir Latunov moved into the football management graveyard as the second most successful Russian in history. Damn you Leonid Slutskiy.
Thank you for reading the Soviet Surge and I hope you’ve enjoyed this Eastern European adventure. But stay tuned for another continental adventure when Football Manager 2022 comes our way!