Football fans have hailed the unlikely figure of Leonid Slutsky as a festive hero after the stern-faced Russian coach channeled his inner pop diva for a rendition of Mariah Carey’s seasonal hit, ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’.
The 49-year-old, whose seven trophies in his homeland include a hat-trick of Russian Premier League titles, was the surprise star of a video recreating superstar Carey’s famously melodramatic love song.
Wearing a blazer and polo shirt, the much-respected manager appeared to be singing at least an octave lower than the American originator of the song in an astonishing video released by the club he currently coaches, Rubin Kazan.
Players from the top-flight side joined in for the emotional karaoke session before Slutsky wound up dreaming of winning the domestic title, which seems unlikely this season given that mid-table Rubin are currently 13 points behind leaders Zenit St. Petersburg.
Leonid Slutsky belting out ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ has peaked my ChristmasBravo, @fcrk@fcrk_en 👏pic.twitter.com/AR114vrRcK
Hope you’re all having good holidays. Now Slutsky has owned Christmas, we can only assume that some posthumous ODB collaboration is the next step, Mariah-style https://t.co/vLSIOtpRf8@fcrk_en@FootballRamble
What level of Russia is this
“Leonid Slutsky is one of my favorite people on Earth and in football,” said one European football reporter, watching the man who led Russia at Euro 2016 gesticulate next to twinkling lights and sit in front of his players while they wore Christmas jumpers around a dinner table.
“Why? Easy – the best Xmas video you’ll see this year, also starring the Rubin Kazan players.”
Rubin’s social media team had built up to the release of the video on their YouTube channel during the day on Sunday, although few of their followers could have foreseen the remarkable display of choral creativity they had in store.
ladies and gentlemen, leonid slutsky. pic.twitter.com/S5bMGfjGiV
Leonid Slutsky, the coach who loves to sing. Here he is getting stuck into an old Russian classic at Igor Akinfeev’s 30th in 2016. Yes, that’s Igor on air guitar next to him.pic.twitter.com/Z4SbWE8ODS
“We’re bringing you the New Year’s mood,” they announced, revealing a work that was soon picked up by US giants Fox Sports.
A DJ at BBC Radio Humberside, which covers one of Slutsky’s former clubs, Hull City, received a resounding reply from Rubin when he asked fans: “I know how much you are missing some football and hearing from the manager this festive period.
“Tomorrow, do I play former manager Leonid Slutsky’s version of a Christmas classic?”
Leonid Slutsky is a crazy man. But I love this one 😂#Football#Slutsky#LeonidSlutskypic.twitter.com/NyOE2GdNn7
Probably the best thing you will see this Xmas. Kudos to Slutsky and @fcrk_en 👏🏻 https://t.co/Oo98KMRVb7
Popular podcast the Football Ramble tweeted: “It seems that former Russia and Hull City boss Leonid Slutsky has, naturally, done his own cover of All I Want for Christmas is You, and it is absolutely STUNNING.”
Slutsky had previously been more noted for his sporting achievements than his theatrical flourishes. The former goalkeeper guided CSKA Moscow to the title in 2013, 2014 and 2016 and won his first five matches as Russia boss after taking over from Fabio Capello in 2015.
Russia drew 1-1 with England in the finals in France before a 3-0 defeat against Wales ensured they finished bottom of their group and prefaced the resignation of Slutsky, who signed a five-year deal with Rubin last year.