Russia's RT sports anchor Kate Partridge nominates her six Russian players Premier League clubs should be considering during the winter transfer window.
Traditionally, the Russian Premier League finished in November, and the focus in January turned to the transfer window.
Now, with the calendar running on a similar schedule as Western Europe, a deal such as Nemanja Vidic’s move from Spartak Moscow to Manchester United on January 5th 2006, when the old style Russian season would have been over, is much less likely to happen.
Despite the array of talent in Russia, it’s also unlikely that any big names will move in January because of the top teams’ remaining involvement in Europe, which would either leave an expensive player Cup-tied or simply unavailable. However, several stars have still been linked with moves across Europe.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov: The Russia and Zenit striker currently leads the top-flight scoring chart with ten goals from 13 starts so far this season. He has a career tally of 179 from 445 appearances. He also has the ability to poach goals as well as drop deep to set up other attacking players.
However, at 30 years old, 5’ 9 ½” tall, and having only played outside Russia during one short spell at la Liga side Sevilla, his chances of moving from his near-native St. Petersburg, hero status and lucrative commercial deals, to the physical rigours, unfamiliar language and media scrutiny of the English Premier League are highly unlikely.
Prospects: Has been linked with Liverpool but unlikely to move
Aleksandr Kokorin: The second-best Russian in terms of goals. The 21-year-old forward has struck eight times this season, all from open play. His tally is perhaps more impressive as Dan Petrescu’s side are only ninth after a torrid start to the campaign. He has also won 12 caps, scoring once.
Kokorin’s age, 6’0” build and less-fancied team make him a more attractive buying proposition than Kerzhakov, but the scepticism in England surrounding the commitment of Russian players could thwart a serious offer.
Prospects: Links with Aston Villa but probably needs more playing time in Russia before considering a European move
Denis Chernyshev: Could arouse more interest. Son of former forward Dmitry, the young winger was raised in Spain and is currently making his mark at the Real Madrid B team. The 22-year-old also received his first Russia call-up last November, after playing for his country at all other levels, and then made his first-team debut for Real three weeks later.
Prospects: One for the future; depends on how he does at Real
Fyodor Smolov: Also called up for that November friendly at home to the USA. The 22-year-old Dynamo winger, currently on loan at Anzhi, scored on his international debut as Russia were held 2-2 in Krasnodar. Under the tutelage of Guus Hiddink, the winger has since started two of second-placed Anzhi’s league games this season, and been on the bench for 13.
Prospects: Staying in Russia – for now
Alan Dzagoev: Perhaps the prospect most likely to interest a top European club. The 22-year-old midfielder has scored three goals to help CSKA go into the first ever Russian winter break top of the table, after winning 14 of their 19 games so far. He also memorably scored the opener at Manchester United in CSKA’s 3-3 Champions League group stage draw in November 2009. And, despite Russia's group stage exit at Euro 2012, the 27-cap star still struck three times in as many games.
However, his fiery temperament could count against him. He was sent off for violent conduct in last September’s 2-0 derby defeat at home to Dynamo, after retaliating to a Luke Wilkshire tackle by kicking and punching the right-back. He was subsequently banned for five matches, which included an extra game because he was already carrying a suspended one-match ban from July, following a red card for a dangerous tackle.
Igor Denisov: The also controversial captain of Russia and Zenit St. Petersburg. At a time when the top teams in England are suffering from a dearth of world class midfielders, and the cream of the “golden generation” is now well into their thirties, the undeniable ability of the midfielder enforcer makes him an obvious target. And it’s not just English teams; Russian rivals Spartak and Italian giants Juventus have also been linked with the player.
However, the father of four is 28 years old, born and bred in St. Petersburg and played his entire career at Zenit, is reluctant to ever speak to the media, and is known for going on strike and being argumentative, so maybe wouldn’t easily fit in in Europe or adapt to playing outside Russia. Also, if he didn't play regularly in Europe – as few Russians so far have – it could affect his coveted role as national captain.