“Coming from Eastern Europe doesn't make you a criminal”

Grinberg poses at the Marbella FC headquarters.
Grinberg poses at the Marbella FC headquarters. / JULIO RODRÍGUEZ
  • Marbella FC owner Alexander Grinberg held a press conference last week after his release from prison and reiterated his commitment to the club

Wearing a shirt two sizes smaller than the one at his last public press conference, freshly shaven, with the Marbella FC badge on his lapel and the look of disorientation of someone returning home from a long holiday: this is how Alexander Grinberg looked last week when he appeared at the club's headquarters to make a statement, declaring his innocence in the so-called 'Caso Oligarkh' and stressing his intention to continue with the project he started five years ago.

Accompanied by one of his lawyers, Roman Bazoev, and the club's marketing director and translator, Yulia Sadovskaya, the president appeared publicly for the first time since leaving prison, where he spent four-and-a-half months accused of money laundering, allegedly in the region of 30 million euros.

“I will prove my innocence,” he said. “Five years ago, when I arrived in Marbella, I wanted to show Spanish people that Russians are hardworking and humble.”

“The truth always wins”

However, he also stated his belief that there is a certain stigma around people from former Soviet Union countries: “Being from Eastern Europe doesn't make you a criminal. It's horrible to have to say this in the 21st century; we are all equal.” He added: “In Alhaurín de la Torre prison there are more than 1,600 inmates but I didn't see a single Russian there.”

Grinberg also took the opportunity to criticise the media outlets who published images which alleged to show firearms found in his home, which he says were toy airsoft guns.

“I am about to turn 50 and never in my life have I disobeyed the law,” he said. “The decision to release me shows that justice exists. I'm sure everything will end well because the truth always wins.”

Commitment to the club

Grinberg spoke to the press for an hour and a half, reiterating his commitment to the town and the team, currently second in group IV of Segunda B.

“Marbella is not for sale,” he said. “This is my family and family is the most important thing.”

He repeated a number of soundbites he has frequently used since taking over the club in 2013: “We are on a journey. I said that my dream was to one day be competing with Barcelona and we've not reached that yet.”

However, he didn't rule out the possibility of bringing in other investors: “Football is a business but it is magical because it is not like any other. I am always open to the idea of new investors. I have received a lot of offers for the club in recent years but it has never entered my mind to sell the club because Marbella is part of my life.”

Grinberg gave thanks to his family, the players, the technical staff, the club employees and investors such as Antonio Decoz. The sponsor paid the wages for everyone at the club for at least two months and will meet with Grinberg soon to discuss paying the money back. “He is a wonderful person and we'll meet soon to discuss different options,” he said.

Also on his agenda is tying down trainer Fernando Estévez to a new deal and to make life easier for the staff who have brought to club forward in these last months: “The club works like a clock; everyone knows the role they have to perform. We have made mistakes, but eventually we have got ourselves on the right path thanks to the hard work of everyone around here.”

In this respect, Grinberg expressed his regret at not having current sporting director Jorge Rodríguez de Cózar in sooner. “Three or four years ago we spoke about him coming back to the club but it didn't work out then. Luckily we have him with us now.”

Grinberg showed emotion at some points, taking long pauses, but also showed his sense of humour: “They told me that I should stay in prison and have my wife stay as president so we could go to the playoffs. They're superstitious like that!”