Georgi Kinkladze was an exciting player; when he got the ball teammates and fans alike watched on in anticipation. His skills were mesmeric and left defenders wondering how he’d done and how he’d done it.
Why then, did City slip down the divisions during his three-year stay there and why is Kinkladze considered a failure in England? Its because he was simply ahead of his time.
At best, Kinkladze’s career can be described as frustrating. Spells at City, Ajax and Derby all left fans wondering why Kinkladze’s performances weren’t matching up to the skill he so definitely possessed.
He showed moments of sheer brilliance; moments that still have people talking 20 years on. But these moments shone as unique. Evidence of his unbridled genius, but a genius that was forever limited.
Kinkladze was fabulous to watch; a shining star in an otherwise dark sky. At City, however, Alan Ball made the team around Kinkladze, he made it rely on a man who’s goalscoring ability wasn’t enough to carry it.
Players like Hazard, Neymar and Mertens may be able to carry a team now, but this is now. Around the turn of the 21st century, defenders had a low tolerance of a fancy forward in front of them and referees had a high tolerance of the ensuing tackles.
Even 20 years on, Kinkladze’s ability can still frustrate defenders and draw fouls.
Similarly, at Ajax and Derby, Kinkladze experienced being played out of position and a turbulent tenure under several different managers.
His circumstances were never favourable. Starting with the Georgian Civil War of 1993 disjointing his upwards trajectory. To moves to Galatasaray and Liverpool falling through because of contract problems; Kinkladze consistently failed to catch a break.
One thing that isn’t in doubt though is his technical ability and skill with the ball. At a time where he only existed in highlight form to many. Kinkladze’s name was echoed by children in playgrounds and parks across the country
Likewise, his capacity for gliding past four or five players with an unparalleled ease was the focal point of many a Match of the Day.
Joe Royle however, after taking over at City, didn’t see it that way.
To the supporters he was the only positive in all that time. To me, he was a big negative. I am not saying that City’s ills were all down to Kinkladze, but there was too much about the whole Kinkladze cult phenomenon that wasn’t right … too often since his arrival, the team had under-performed. I couldn’t help deducing that contrary to popular opinion, he would be my weak link not my strong one.”
Royle was right. Unequivocally and indefinitely, Kinkladze was too good.
He was unlike any player the premier league, especially a second rate City side, had ever seen. The comparisons to Juninho of Middlesborough were often, but Kinkladze had a genius that escaped Juninho.
The players around him and managers that selected him, though that his brilliance was their golden ticket. They reclined their seat, put the car in neutral and expected the impeccable steering to do the rest.
All the pressure on Kinkladze, combined with his consistent inconsistencies and unfortunate circumstances, limited his growth. His potency and brilliance was undoubtable but never realised to the extent it should have been.
A shining lightbulb in a world without electricity.