And the Russian has given an insight into his year at Fratton Park in the Premier League under Harry Redknapp
Smertin’s move to PO4 in 2003 always had an element of mystery to it, as he actually joined Chelsea in what was reported to be a £3.5m move from French side Bordeaux – before arriving on a season-long loan.
Now, in an interview with The Athletic, Smertin has told of Roman Abramovich’s influence on the move, in what originally was supposed to be a switch to Russian outfit Torpedo Moscow.
That deal collapsed, however, paving the way for his Pompey stay, where he impressed in 33 appearances.
Smertin told The Athletic: ‘I made the decision to come back to Russia, to win the Russian championship and to be part of a Champions League team.
‘Torpedo Moscow was a brand new project and Abramovich was an essential part of it with Alexander Mamut.
‘I said to the president of Bordeaux, “I don’t want to play here. I’m ready to finish my contract, it doesn’t matter. I’m going back to Russia because I would like to be in a super club”.
‘I don’t know why (Torpedo didn’t happen), but all of a sudden I was in Moscow for two weeks without a club.
‘It was a strange time but I believed in myself, because I played for the national team, so I just waited for an offer.
‘Then my agent called me and said, “Alexei, you can go to Chelsea but if you sign the contract, you need to go to Portsmouth on loan”. I said, ‘I’m ready’.”
Smertin was signed by Redknapp, who was in charge for his year at Pompey and offered an introduction to the English language the ex-Fulham man could adapt to.
He added: ‘Harry Redknapp was a great coach for me because I didn’t speak English at all but I remembered his motivational speeches before the game or after a game.
‘When you lost he’d say, “You’re a ******* bad player”. When you won he’d say, “You’re a ******* great player”.
‘It was quite easy for me to understand! He was a good motivator with fantastic charisma.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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