079. Igor Belanov
Ukrainian born attacking midfielder Igor Belanov was one of the most talented players to emerge from the former Soviet Union, and established a reputation as on the of the world’s finest players in the mid 1980’s. After beginning his career in his home town of Odessa, first with SKA and then Chernomorets, it was with Dynamo Kiev that he achieved most success.
Belanov joined Dynamo in 1985, and although he spent just four years at the club his stay coincided with considerable domestic success. The club won the domestic league and cup double in the Soviet Union in 1985, and followed that a year later by retaining the league title and winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup. That same year Belanov scored four goals in four games as the Soviet Union reached the second round of the World Cup in Mexico, and he finished the year by being named European Player of the Year.
After winning a second Soviet Cup winner’s medal in 1987, Belanov played a crucial role in the Soviet Union’s European Championship campaign in West Germany in 1988. The Soviets made it all the way through to the final against the Netherlands, but unfortunately with the team trailing 2-0 in the second half Belanov missed a penalty which would have brought them back into the game. The Netherlands won the game to avenge their defeat by the Soviet Union in the group stages.
He moved to western Europe for the first time in 1989 to play in West Germany for Borussia Mönchengladbach, but his stay was not very successful and in 1991 he moved on to Eintracht Braunschweig. After four years in Braunschweig, he returned home to the Ukraine to for a second spell with Chernomorets Odessa, before going on to join little known club Metalurg Mariupol for a short spell as player-coach.
After leading the team into the Ukrainian Premier League, he left football and moved back to Germany to run a sports dietary business, before emerging as chairman and majority shareholder of Swiss club FC Wil in 2003. During his short time in Switzerland, Wil won the Swiss Cup and qualified for Europe for the first time.