Meet Khvicha Kvaratskhelia: Who is Rubin’s dazzling tiny dancer?

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There are very few more terrifying sights for defenders than Khvicha Kvaratskhelia with the ball at his feet and in full flow.

The 19-year-old Georgian winger has lit up the Russian Premier Liga with his blistering speed in possession and balance that allows him to glide past opponents as if they aren’t there, and recently scored his first goal for his country at senior level in the UEFA Nations League. But how exactly did he get here?

The story so far

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is not a player easily missed. There was rarely any doubt that he would be destined to entertain from a very young age, even despite his wiry frame. By the way, his father was a successful professional who played for Dinamo Tbilisi, but moved between a few clubs in their native country before spending seven years playing in the Azeri league. While there, he finished as top scorer in the top flight twice, before moving into management in the country and back in Georgia.

Born in Tbilisi in 2001, Khvicha joined the Dinamo Tbilisi academy system at the age of 11, where he became close friends with ex-Rubin and current Rotor Volgograd’s on-loan winger Zuriko Davitashvili. He was then called up to the Georgia under-17 national team - for whom he was devastating, scoring 15 goals in 21 appearances -  in September 2016. A year later he made his debut for the Dinamo senior side against Kolkheti Poti, wasting no time in making his mark by setting up a goal in a 1-1 draw.

Khvicha moved on to FC Rustavi in 2018, and although he had to wait patiently for his chances, he had already moved up to under-18 level for his country, where he scored three goals in seven appearances. His reputation was already growing abroad, with Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayern Munich reportedly enquiring about his services, but he remained at Rustavi until the following winter when he joined fellow countryman Solomon Kverkvelia at Lokomotiv Moscow on loan until the end of the 2018/19 season. 

He made 10 appearances for the Railroaders - all off the bench - scoring his first goal in Russian football against, of all teams, Rubin Kazan. Yury Semin was enamoured by the technique, dexterity and application shown by his new starlet in the making, and was keen to tie him down to a permanent deal. Last summer, however, he signed a five-year contract with Rubin Kazan.

As if to add insult to injury, the first game of the season saw him return to the RZD Arena to face Lokomotiv Moscow. Kvaratskhelia was named on the bench, but when Aleksey Miranchuk struck a direct free kick midway through the second half Roman Sharonov threw on the 18-year-old for his debut. Within 10 minutes he had ghosted into the box to loop a header into the far corner for a point. Instantly he held his hands up to apologise to the home fans.

He would end up being voted RPL Young Player of the Season despite only scoring twice more, and registering just one assist before the coronavirus pandemic halted fixtures until June. The touchpaper had been lit though, and he is already one goal and one assist short of his tallies for the whole of last season after 11 matchdays. It is not just his final contributions that stand out though; per 90 minutes he attempts eight dribbles and is successful with four, numbers comparable to Lionel Messi. Rubin Kazan have arguably the hottest teenage property in the RPL on their hands now, with seemingly nothing stopping Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on his exponential trajectory.

Similar playing style

Cristian Pulisic. The American winger has a similar close control when running at full speed, and he rarely moves at much less than top gear. The manner in which the Chelsea winger glides through a crowd of bodies is reminiscent of Khvicha just ghosting past, but when challenges come flying in - as they invariably do for such speedy wingers - they are both capable of standing up for themselves.

Did you know...

Although Khvicha’s father Badri was born in the city of Nakipu in Georgia, he ended up representing Azerbaijan at full international level. He had played in the country for three years before making his debut in 2000 as a 35-year-old.

What they say about Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

“He's a super-talented guy. During the six months that he spent with us, we worked hard and put a lot of work into his development. His departure brought tears to my eyes.” - Yury Semin, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s manager at Lokomotiv Moscow

“Now Kvaratskhelia can be called the Georgian Messi.” - Zuriko Davitashvili, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s childhood friend and Rubin teammate

“Kvaratskhelia became one of the brightest players after the restart, and he is the brightest and most interesting player фе Rubin. This is reflected in the efficiency, and in his current level, and in the qualities that he is guaranteed to show on the pitch.” - Leonid Slutskiy, Rubin Kazan manager.

Photo: Dzhalil Gubaidullin/Rubin Kazan; Lokomotiv Moscow


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