Stories from the other side – Mladen Rudonja: How did Andres Vombergar go to Russia for half of what Vienna’s Rapid was offering
Authored by: Mladen Rudonja. Photo: Sportida. Graphics: WPM
Football is far more than just live broadcasts, dry match reports, transfer rumors, and evergreen clichés from the main protagonists. What the public sees is just one side of football; it is interesting and often exciting. However, there is also the side hidden from the eyes of ordinary mortals. On the other side, things happen that one could not imagine. There are complications, adventures, anecdotes, incredible stories, bitter disappointments, failed plans, and much more. These are the stories from the other side. Their stories. Stories of the main actors.
As the first guest storyteller for the Planetnogomet.si portal, Mladen Rudonja joined. The legendary native of Koper, who scored a goal for the World Cup and later left his mark on Olimpija in various ways, touched on Andres Vombergar in his first story from the other side. Mladen Rudonja told an unheard story. A story from the other side.
Photo: Urban Urbanc / Sportida
Andres Vombergar is the most friendly, well-mannered, and positively oriented person I know. Vombi is a success story, and I probably won’t be able to choose words to describe him in a way he deserves. But if I say he is honest, hardworking, and diligent, who earned everything himself, I’m not far from the truth. He started in the lower Argentine leagues. He went from the fourth to the second division; to the second, which is a hellish league with a lot of clubs and a lot of players. If you break through the second Argentine league… He did it.
Many have asked me how we discovered Vombergar at Olimpija. The story began to be written in 2014 when the Slovenian national team visited South America and played against Argentina and Uruguay there. Along with the players, Čeferin’s delegation also went on the trip, playing some exhibition matches in Buenos Aires. It was on one of these that a young, tall, skillful, and very likable guy caught my attention. Shortly afterward, I received a call: “Mladen, I have a player for you. From Argentina. You won’t regret it.”
Photo: NK Olimpija Ljubljana
But such calls, as a sports director, you get a lot, and then, of course, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Anyway, later on, I somehow got information about the guy and also the phone number of his father. Initially, I was in contact with Marko Vombergar; I received quite a few recordings of Andres’ games that seemed promising to me. Andres then started playing for Los Andes, began scoring goals, and I decided to watch him live.
Even if everything goes wrong, Vombergar is positive
In the match I attended, he scored a goal, and his club won. I immediately knew that he was the type of striker we were missing: strong, knows how to position himself, has a good jump, a good head, perfect ‘timing.’ I noticed that he was somewhat solid with his foot, but excellent in the air. When I later met him, I had no more doubts. Modest, extremely good kid, a family guy, and at the same time honest, hardworking, diligent. A player you immediately fall in love with. Negativity doesn’t exist in him. He’s always positive. Even if everything goes wrong, he’s positive. Even if someone does something wrong, something bad, he always finds something positive in it. And that’s his greatest virtue. He perceives football in a simple way: if you’re honest, it will come back to you sooner or later. That’s Vombi.
Bringing him from Los Andes was not easy; we had to pay compensation, which was not low. I think we paid around €200,000, and I must commend Milan Mandarić, who allowed us to finalize the deal. After arriving in Ljubljana, he needed time to adapt, but he was still at the level we expected from him. He fought, scored goals, understood everything. When he didn’t start the game, he understood. Igor Bišćan initially had him on the bench, but every time he came on, he contributed. He scored all the crucial goals, decided the championship in Maribor. Throughout this time, he was never negative for a moment.Photo: Mario Horvat / Sportida
So, I hope Andres will be part of the Slovenian national team at Euro 2024. Coach Matjaž Kek can take 23 players on the journey. 11 will play, and 12 won’t. And those 12 must be positive. When you’re at a major competition, it’s not easy to wait for an opportunity; nerves come quickly. I’m convinced that Vombi wouldn’t have a problem with that. But I also know that he would make the most of every minute he got. He would go all out, do everything for the Slovenian jersey. Even if he didn’t get a chance, he wouldn’t say a word. He would just hope for the next opportunity. We also need such players. That’s him. If Kek includes him in the 23, Vombergar will justify the trust.
In all this, I often wonder where Andres would be today if his transfer saga had unfolded differently in the winter of 2021. At that time, we received a good offer for him. From Austria, it was sent by Zoran Barišić, the former coach of Olimpija. Rapid offered €1.2 million, and Vombi was inclined towards Vienna. But in the old habit, Mandarić wanted more money, saying that he had promised compensation from Russia amounting to €2.5 million. Promised… Rapid sent an official offer, but what was promised?! Just like that. On a whim. Unfortunately, all this was done by people who were in the club. They worked in the club, and they told Milan, convincing him not to worry, that they would arrange everything. That he would definitely get €2.5 million from Russia.
In the end, he was sold for €650,000
Just before the end of the transfer window in Austria, I almost begged Mandarić to – as he knows and can – get an official offer from Russia. So that we have something on paper. Something to know that what they promised will happen. Otherwise, we sell him to Rapid. Andres wanted to go there; Russia didn’t appeal to him. When I later found out that Ufa was the club from Russia that was supposed to pay so much for Vombi, everything became clear to me. A little earlier, they sold Zinchenko to Manchester City (!) for €4 million, and now they would give €2.5 million for a player from Slovenia? No chance. Mandarić told me to leave everything alone, that he would conclude the deal and get that money.
And what happened? The transfer window closed in Austria, and the Russians immediately showed a completely different face. Vombi had to undergo some kind of trial at the training camp in Spain; club doctors said he had a ‘broken’ knee, that this was wrong, that was wrong. A million problems. In the end, Milan Mandarić sold him for €650,000. For half less! And this constantly happened to him. Because he always had someone next to him who advised him and told him everything he wanted to hear, and in the end, convinced him. He believed everyone except the one who was responsible for his work. In the end, we had to sell Andres because we needed money for licensing. Milan then apologized to me. Saying that he messed up. Saying that he shouldn’t have listened to others. It happened several times. That’s Milan Mandarić. He prefers a promise of two million to accepting a million on paper. If it’s more, it just sounds better…
< Photo: Morgan Kristan / Sportida
The author's opinion in the column does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance.
This text was automatically translated using AI.