Darko Jevtić Talks About Russian Football, Injury And His Comeback: “I Had Thoughts About Ending My Career”

July 2022. Russian side Rubin Kazan has just been relegated to the First League, and one of those who should bring Kazan back to the Premier League is Darko Jevtić. But then something unexpected happened. Before the start of the season, the Swiss midfielder tore his cruciate ligament in a friendly match with Dynamo Moscow.

The midfielder’s recovery was expected to take about six months, but there were some complications due to his body’s specifics. As a result, Jevtić missed almost two years and officially returned to football only this spring in a match against Orenburg.

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Darko Jevtić

Darko Jevtić

We talked to the Rubin player. In an interview with Telecomasia.net, the Swiss footballer revealed:

  • – why his recovery took so long;
  • – whether he had thoughts of ending his professional career;
  • – what future awaits him in Rubin, and what will happen with his contract;
  • – his emotions after the Serbia vs Russia match;
  • – how Khvicha has changed at Rubin and Napoli.

– Darko, you haven’t played for almost two years. What did your relatives and friends write after your return to the field?

– When a player gets injured, everyone asks when they will be back. If the break drags on, even the player gets tired of these questions because they don’t know when they will return to the field. My friends were happy about my comeback because they knew how much I was going through. I gave my all to recover as quickly as possible.

– What was it like to take the field after such a long break?

– Honestly, I felt strange. For two years, I hadn’t experienced flying with the team to a match, having lunch before a game, or heading to the stadium. It all felt new to me, even though I’ve been playing football for many years.

I simply forgot those feelings at that moment. But when I came back, there was no limit to my joy. I had worked long and hard for this, so I told myself, “Well done, you did it!”.

– Too bad, but your first match took place on artificial grass in Orenburg.

– I thought about it a little before the game: whether it was good for me or whether there were risks. When we arrived and started to prepare, I was focused only on the upcoming game. I just wanted to go out on the field and help the team, so I didn’t think about the pitch.

– Did you discuss your appearance on the field in advance?

– No, we didn’t. I was sitting on the bench waiting for my chance. I am grateful to the coach for letting me out in the very first match. That means that during the training I managed to show that I could be useful for the team. Unfortunately, it didn’t affect the result in Orenburg. We lost, although I was close to scoring after a free kick in one of the episodes.

Darko Jevtić

Darko Jevtić

– First qualifier, first contact. Were you afraid? How not to back off at the last moment?

– After all, I didn’t go straight into the match after individual training – I had been training with the team for a while. There is contact and one-vs-one in training as well. Of course, all the guys in Rubin know me, so sometimes they played a little softer. But after a week of training, I asked them to play at full strength to thoroughly prepare for the game. That’s why I had no fear during the match.

– Are you ready to play all 90 minutes now?

– I think I haven’t reached my optimal fitness yet. I’m training thoroughly, but mentally I’m still adjusting. I can’t remember the last time I played the full 90 minutes. I played a maximum of 10 minutes in the recent games. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to play the full match soon.

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– How long have you been training with the team?

– I started working during the winter camp in Turkey. At first I had individual training, and then they gradually started including me in the team’s regular sessions.

– Your recovery took too long. Why?

– I had a very serious injury. I know that many players never return to football after such injuries. I had a torn cruciate ligament, cartilage damage, and a torn meniscus. My knee was literally “empty”.

There was hope that I would return to the field in 7-8 months, but after 3 months, I realized that I was feeling bad and experiencing pain. And after six months, we decided that I needed another operation using a different method. Basically, I had to start over the entire recovery process.

Doctors said my case was unique. I am grateful to the Rubin medical staff for helping me return to the field.

– Is this your first serious injury?

– I had a serious shoulder injury when I was young. But of course, I had never had such a grave injury as the latest one.

– Did you think about ending your career?

– Yes, I did think about it. Sometimes you have good training sessions and positive thoughts. But when you’re in pain… During the recovery process, I had thoughts like “Why does it hurt? Can I endure it? Why is it taking so long for it to pass?”. But I waited, trained, and started over again. Over time, things started to get better and better. I am very grateful to Rubin for being patient and waiting for me. I really appreciate it. I will try to thank the club with my play and results.

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Darko Jevtić

Darko Jevtić

– Your contract expires at the end of this season. Are there any talks with the club already?

– No. No one knows how I will adapt, get in shape, so there haven’t been any offers yet. I understand it very well and try not to think about it. I want to come back stronger and help the team. Then I can sign a new contract.

– While you were away, Rubin had changes in coaches and management.

– I’m 31, and I’m not surprised by such changes anymore. But I’ll say that ever since I joined Rubin, there have only been two constant players – Yury Dyupin and Aleksei Gritsayenko. But that’s okay. Things change fast in football.

– I know you are Serbian by nationality.

– I have dual citizenship: Serbian and Swiss. I was born in Switzerland, but my parents are Serbs. They moved there when they were young, they met in Switzerland. I lived there until I was 20: I went to school and started playing football there.

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– On one hand, this team is completely new for you, on the other hand, there are many of your compatriots in it. How did this affect your adaptation to the team?

– Of course, it’s easier to be in a team when there are people from your country – you can communicate in your native language. It helps a lot. I have never worked with as many Serbs as in Rubin before.

– Who do you talk to the most? Do you share the room with anyone?

– I live alone. I try to talk with everyone, but I am closest to Igor Vujačić. We understand each other and can find something to talk about because we are the same age and have a lot in common. Also, our wives are good friends.

– Your Russian is good, you learned it in just 4 years. Did you practice it?

– Yes, of course. But I learned Russian without a tutor. I think it’s because I’m a sociable person, I try to find some connection with everyone. This makes it easier to learn the language. I learn something new every day, I keep learning new words.

– Do you help your Serbian teammates with translation?

– I’ve already told them a thousand times that I’m not an interpreter! They need to learn the language. Of course, when someone new comes to the team, I help with translation because I know how hard it is. But, of course, I tell them to go and study. I might not be here tomorrow, who is going to help them then?

Igor Vujačić and Nikola Čumić. Photo: Rubin

Igor Vujačić and Nikola Čumić. Photo: Rubin

– In March, Russia played against the Serbian national team. Did you watch this friendly match?

– Only the first half. We watched the match at the training camp with the team and staff, and I stopped watching after the red card because I got angry (laughs). I think all the Serbs only watched the first 45 minutes. After the match, we joked with the team about the result, discussed the game. Everyone understood that the red card made the difference.

– Who from Rubin’s current squad could potentially be in the Serbian national team?

– Many of the guys.

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– You never made your debut for the Swiss national team. Were there a moment when you could have started playing for Serbia?

– Yes, there was. When I was still playing in Poland, I was close to getting into the national team. But it didn’t work out in the end. At that moment, I wasn’t too disappointed. If I ever earn a call-up to the national team, I’ll be ready for it. If it doesn’t happen – no big deal.

– You played for almost all Swiss youth teams from U-15 to U-21. Can you name some of the top footballers you played with?

– It’s hard to say. I would rather name someone I played with in Basel. I played with Mohamed Salah, Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Remo Freuler, and many others. I played with very talented players in the academy who have built excellent careers.

– Did you congratulate Xhaka on winning the championship at Bayer?

– No. We don’t keep in touch now, even though we played together and even went to the same school.

– Do you keep in touch with Salah?

– No, we were very young back then. I haven’t kept in touch with many former teammates.

– What stood out to you about Salah in Basel?

– I have only seen someone as fast as Salah only once in Russia, it was Ilya Samoshnikov. He was so fast he could easily outrun defenders and go one-on-one with a goalkeeper. I was very young at the time, and I couldn’t even imagine that he would have such a successful career.

Ilya Samoshnikov. Photo: Rubin

Ilya Samoshnikov. Photo: Rubin

– Would you say that Khvicha can be compared to a younger Salah?

– In terms of talent, Khvicha is number one for me among those I played with. He is also fast, but when it comes to speed, Salah would beat him. However, Khvicha is stronger in other aspects of football. I wish him to have a career as successful as Salah’s.

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– You are one of the mainstays of Rubin. You’ve been in the club since 2020. You have seen both the coronavirus and the war, but still remain in the club. How?

– One of my main strengths is patience, as I proved it during my recovery from injury. I really hope that everything will end sooner or later. On the other hand, I am a professional athlete who is committed to my work. Football is my life, it is everything to me. And even if something goes wrong, you have to keep going and work.

– Can you compare the past Rubin with the current one?

– I think the situations are similar. Now we have a strong team. Although two games in Samara and Orenburg have negatively affected our position in the table, and we still have a game against Zenit ahead. Well, we’ll see. I was there for the season when we beat Zenit twice. We will try to show our game in the next match. The opponents are very strong, so we will fight.

Darko Jevtić

Darko Jevtić

– Are you discussing the table in the locker room?

– Of course, we talk to the guys, discuss our chances. It would be foolish if we were to go in 14th place and dream of a high position. The density in the table is very high, so we will see.

– What do you think about Daku’s performance for Rubin this season?

– I believe he is a very team-oriented player. Perhaps he needs to be a bit more daring. In some situations, attackers need to be selfish. This negatively affects his personal statistics – he could have scored many more goals than he has now. Daku has great potential. He is tall, fast, and has excellent technique. He can achieve a lot in his career.

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– Tell us about your move to Rubin.

– In winter 2020, I played for the Polish club Lech and initially planned to finish the season there. Perhaps at that time, I was showing my best football in my career. Then my agent told me about Rubin’s interest, and my plans quickly changed.

Interestingly, both Lech and Rubin went to Turkey for training camps, and both teams were staying in the same city, in the same hotel. So basically, I just changed the floor after the transfer (laughs). Everything happened very quickly.

– In the spring of 2021, you scored some important goals that helped Rubin qualify for European cups.

– Yes, it was a good time, a good season. One of the best seasons in my career, although I was not playing in my usual position.

Darko Jevtić

Darko Jevtić

– After that season, you went to Greek club AEK on loan in the summer, just 4 days before the transfer window closed. Were you upset?

– Honestly, yes, I had mixed feelings. But on the other hand, at that time I also wanted to leave. Besides, AEK is a strong club, and Greece has a strong league.

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– How did you perform in Greece?

– Average. Before the season, AEK underwent significant changes, with 15 new players coming in, including me. So it was challenging for the team to adapt and play together. I can’t say that I played a lot in Greece.

– Can you compare the Russian and Greek leagues in terms of level?

– I think Russia still has a better level. The Greek league has only 4-5 top teams. The rest are quite mediocre. In Russia, there are more quality clubs that can compete. In this sense, I would say the Russian Premier League is better.

– But Russia also has its disadvantages – the weather and long flights.

– Yes, I can remember when we played in November in Khabarovsk in the Russian Cup. I flew there for 8 hours only to have my nose broken.

– Was it your longest flight in life?

– If we talk about football flights, then yes. Aside from football, my longest flight was to Mexico. But I went there for vacation. Khabarovsk was cold and I broke my nose there (laughs).

– You said Khvicha is the most talented player you’ve played with. Have you seen him grow and change at Rubin?

– It’s hard to say, I don’t know what he’s like now. But if we only talk about the field, at Napoli, he finally became a “sniper”, I mean his strong focus on the goal. He also played great at Rubin, but didn’t have stats. Yes, he could go past anyone in Russia, but that’s not the most important thing, especially without goals and assists.

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Dorde Despotović, Darko Jevtić and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. Photo: Rubin

Dorde Despotović, Darko Jevtić and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. Photo: Rubin

– Do you follow Napoli? What do you think about Khvicha’s current performance?

– Now he is at the age where he needs to perform better and better every year. I think Napoli is not the right club for that either.

– Has he outgrown Napoli?

 – I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to move to another top club in the next transfer window. Khvicha has to grow, he has all the potential for it. I am sure that he will leave Napoli, but I can’t say when.

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