Big things were expected of Sergei Rebrov when he signed for Tottenham in 2000. The Ukrainian striker struck up a fruitful partnership with Andrei Shevchenko whilst at Dynamo Kiev scoring 139 goals in 284 appearances at the club and become the highest goal scorer in the history of the Ukrainian league.
In the 1999-2000 Champions League Rebrov was joint top scorer as he hit 10 goals in 16 games, further boosting his profile in Europe.
A year before Shevchenko had moved to Italian giants AC Milan thus many thought that Rebrov too would join one of Europe’s elite clubs. So when Tottenham announced they had signed him in June 2000, it was somewhat of a mini coup for the north London club.
Rebrov looked like he had what it took to crack the Premier League; an eye for goal, good aerial ability and a turn of pace but for some reason it just didn’t click for him.
He made a slow start to his Spurs career as he clearly tried to adapt to the step up in quality from his days at Kiev and finally got his first goals with a brace against Everton. But a return of 12 goals in his debut season was not enough for Spurs record signing who had scored 20 or more in his 4 previous seasons.
It didn’t help that he found himself out of favour after Glen Hoddle took over from the sacked George Graham. Under Hoddle he would go on to spend the majority of his time sitting on the bench where he would make he make the majority of his appearances from.
In a derby game against Arsenal after scoring the opening goal, he was taken off with 10 minutes to go. Rebrov, like the fans clearly did not understand why he was substituted and it was made even worse when Arsenal equalised at the death through Patrick Vieira.
The game was typical of Rebrov’s career as in one of football’s worst cases of mismanagement, Rebrov went from one of football’s brightest talents to a self doubting bench warmer.
Spells at Fenerbahce and West Ham failed to revive his career and in 2005 he finally ended his nightmare in England when he returned to Dynamo Kiev, where he now operates as assistant to the reserve coach.
Rebrov’s career will look even worse when held up to Shevchenko’s (who would go on to have his own nightmare spell at Chelsea). Whilst Rebrov sat on the bench, his former strike partner would enjoy an illustrious career winning the Serie A, the Champions League and the Ballon D’or amongst other awards.
But in 2008, any sympathy people may have had for Rebrov disappeared when he was caught up in a race row. Rebrov, offering new Tottenham signing Roman Pavlyuchenko advice, claimed:
“I wouldn’t go for a walk on my own around White Hart Lane. A lot of dark-skinned people live there. So naturally the crime rate is higher than anywhere else. It’s not nice to be a robbery victim. So I suggest that Roman doesn’t walk but drives around that area.”
Rebrov career will forever be a metaphor for failure but not so much due to his own ability rather how he was mismanaged at White Hart Lane.
I’m sure he must still ask himself why he agreed to move there.