As the World Cup qualifiers came to an end, Georgia finished second to last in group B. A let down for the nation who aimed at competing for a playoff spot, as they fell on the goal line in the EUROs playoffs against North Macedonia.
But in the midst of the darkness of not making it to the playoffs, there’s been a constant light of beacon for Georgia. A 20-year-old kid from the country’s capital, Tbilisi, who has given the nation hope for the future: Kvicha Kvaratskhelia.
– Khvicha started his career at Dinamo Tbilisi. This club has raised many great Georgian players and I am sure Khvicha will be included in this list soon. He later signed for Lokomotiv Moscow, but only six months later he was sold to Rubin Kazan where he plays today, Georgian journalist and football expert Lasha Kokiashvili tells FootballElements and continues:
– Khvicha soon became a leader in Rubin. He had complete confidence from the coaches and never had a problem with getting playing time. His favorite position is left-winger, where he feels best. The key to Rubin’s success was Kvaratskhelia, with whom his team started showing offensive football. This was followed by a logical continuation: Top clubs in Europe started following him and there were a lot of talks about a potential transfer this summer. But ultimately he stayed.
Kvaratskhelia made his international debut in 2019. But it wasn’t until 2020 that he was fully introduced as a regular in the national team – and then he made immediate success. In his first two games in the UEFA Nations League, he had an assist against both Estonia and North Macedonia. But he didn’t get full recognition on a larger scale until the World Cup qualifiers started in March 2021, as he scored goals in consecutive games against Spain and Greece.
As a player, Kvaratskhelia is very fast, has quick feet with a lot of flair, is a fast thinker and is a very hard worker. He is a winger who is a constant goal threat, but he can also create chances out of nothing as shown against Sweden in the World Cup qualifiers, for example. He excels in one against one situations and handles himself extremely well in closed-off areas. His style of play reminds you a lot of a young Lionel Messi. The dribbles are not anything complex, but, instead, he uses his speed, low point of gravity and intelligence to get past defenders. Either by sprinting past them or by fooling them with tricky body movements.
– He is style of play is totally attacking. He never stops. It does not matter who is standing in front of him or how many defenders are going to try and stop him. When he gets the ball he only thinks of attacking. Sometimes he runs so much that at the end of the match he seems tired. But that’s okay, he will learn to distribute time properly. He is still very young.
But despite being only 20-years-old, Kokiashvili holds Kvaratskhelia extremely high.
– I can say that Khvicha is not only the best young player in our country now, but he is the best Georgian player. Period. When we talk about talents, I would definitely mention Giorgi Chakvetadze who I think is no less talented. It’s just that injuries have made life very difficult for him. But he is also very young and can play great football. My advice would be to watch him too.
The tricky winger quickly gained interest and recognition from big clubs around Europe after his performances in the World Cup qualifiers, and Milan’s technical director Paolo Maldini, and sporting director Ricky Massara, were rumored to be admirers. But despite interest from many big clubs, Kvaratskhelia stayed a Rubin player. Why? Lasha Kokiashvili explains:
– First of all, his transfer fee. Rubin wanted €20 million for Kvicha and that is not a small amount of money for a boy who is from Georgia and plays for a mid-level Russian club. A lot of clubs can not risk paying that amount, so they prefer to buy talents from France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany instead.
– The second reason is his agent, Mamuka Jugheli. Jugheli likes to take Georgian players to play in Russia and have them there for a long time. He is not a top agent. I can not say that he is a bad agent, but I want better for Khvicha. I think Jugheli finds it difficult to represent Khvicha better and even hinders his development a bit. He has mentioned in a lot of interviews that he had contacts with the best clubs in Europe and that he had visited European countries to negotiate. Although, there is nothing that confirms this. Khvicha is still at Rubin and that is the reality.
– The third reason is non-EU citizenship. This is a problem for European clubs as there is a limit in many leagues. Against the background of all this, Khvicha remained in Rubin and that had a bad effect on him. Until the last moment (August 31st), Khvicha believed that he would move to a club in a top-five league – but the transfer did not take place. That was the main reason for his bad start to the season.
Kvaratskhelia ended the 2020-21 season with four goals and eight assists in 23 appearances. But, as mentioned by Kokiashvili above, his start to the 2021-22 season has been slower. In 14 appearances so far, the 20-year-old has only managed to score once and provide two assists.
What has not stopped, though, is his success in the national team. In November he scored twice against Sweden in Batumi, Georgia’s second-largest city, to more or less end Sweden’s dreams of winning the group ahead of Spain. Against a defense consisting of Emil Krafth (Newcastle), Victor Nilsson Lindelöf (Manchester United), Joakim Nilsson (Arminia Bielefeld) and Ludwig Augustinsson (Sevilla), Kvaratskhelia ran riot. He could not be stopped by the defense that had just conceded three goals in the previous six games, albeit Nilsson is not a regular starter for Sweden.
He ended the World Cup qualifications with four goals in seven appearances. That is just the beginning of a very successful career, Kokiashvili thinks.
– He has everything to play football on a grand level. First of all, he has faith. He knows what he is doing and he knows what he needs to do in the future. Khvicha is well aware of what talent he has and what it can become one day. His dream is to play for Real Madrid and win the Champions League. Secondly, he has a mentality that will help him play great football. The main thing now is to leave Russia soon and move to a club where he will have a lot of playing time and the confidence of the coach.
Where do you think a good place for that would be?
– I think Bundesliga and La Liga are ideal for his football. Teams score a lot of goals in both of these leagues and they love to play attacking football. Khvicha would fit in perfectly with the teams of these two leagues. However, I can comfortably say that he would fit in very well in all top-five leagues. Khvicha is a great talent and he needs the right club and the right coach.