Challenging for the league title is a long, arduous marathon that few have the nerve to complete. To finally lift the gloriously glistening silver trophy above one’s head is the fruition of years of hopes, dreams and expectations. To succeed on the most significant of stages, club’s require their key personnel to remain focussed, hungry and committed to ensuring that any oncoming obstacles are suitably dealt with and that few distractions take the feasting eyes away from the end goal. But this is often far easier said than done and this is where the problems lie for so many clubs – particularly CSKA Moscow.
Vagner Love is a widely recognised figure in European football. A strong, powerful goalscorer with a slightly questionable choice of hair style and an even more questionable playboy lifestyle. Vagner Love’s recent history has seen him caught up in the three ‘G’s’ that no football club wishes to see their player involved within: girls, guns and gangsters. But Vagner Love’s insistence on teetering on the brink of normality and legality has proved to be a persistent problem for the player and his parent club.
The dawn of the new Russian Premier League season saw CSKA placed – along with Zenit St Petersburg – at the fore of the title race. ‘There or there abouts’ tended to be the general consensus amongst fans and pundits alike as a repeat of Zenit’s near runaway victory last season looked far less likely this term. CSKA’s well rounded, balanced team mixing both youthful exuberance and level headed experience stands the club in particularly good stead over the coming season both domestically and continentally. But such predictions have been taken with the belief that Vagner Love would pick up where he left off at the tail end of last season – which saw him score 11 goals in 17 matches – including a last gasp winner in the Moscow derby against Spartak. But is Vagner Love’s flirtation with a move away from Russia’s industrial metropolis of Moscow threatening to derail the Armymen’s progression to become league champions?
Reports began to surface over the past week that Vagner Love had been permitted by CSKA to return to Brazil for ‘personal reasons’ – as seems to be the norm with a variety of South American talent over recent years. The news was met with a unified chorus of ‘not again’ – on a backdrop of The Hives’ 2002 hit single ‘Hate to say I told you so’ – as it had not been a year since the player had returned to Russia after a spell in Brazil for similar ‘personal reasons’. Previously it was his family that had been the cause for concern but this time it was to settle a score – in fact a sizable monetary debt that Love was in the country to collect. But the move does make one wonder whether in fact there was more to the visit than simply boosting the coffers of his bank balance.
Vagner Love’s spell in Brazil during 2009 and the early part of 2010 saw him originally feature for Palmeiras before moving to the club he supported as a boy Flamengo – after conflicts between the player and Palmeiras’ fans escalated to the point where Love became unequivocally concerned for his own well being. His fulfillment of a lifelong dream in donning the famed red and black stripes of Flamengo could have enabled Love to begin a new chapter in his European adventure – however it is quite clear that the player has unfinished business with his boyhood club. Vagner Love’s recent trip to Brazil saw him meet with Flamengo’s President Patrícia Amorim and one wouldn’t be surprised if a potential deal was mooted between the two parties. Upon being questioned about where his future lay in the wake of his pit stop in Brazil Vagner Love stated that: ‘Of course, I want to return to Flamengo and the club president keeps saying that the door is always open for me. But I have a contract with CSKA Moscow until 2014.’
For CSKA Vagner Love’s more than obvious desire to leave Moscow once and for all could well be a problem that the club could struggle to cope with. As the likes of Zenit, Spartak and Dynamo Moscow take to the field with the likes of Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Welliton and Kevin Kuranyi, respectively, CSKA would be left without a talismanic forward to call their own. Should Love leave the club over the summer then movements would need to be made in order to replace a player who’s prolific record makes him particularly difficult to replicate. CSKA’s financial might is such that a significant amount of money would be made available to the club’s coach Leonid Slutsky to enter the market and bring in a ready made replacement – however such a move would not be without its hazards. The transfer dealings of Anzhi Makhachkala and Terek Grozny – mixing high transfer fees with astronomical wages – have helped aid the perception that Russian football is financially thriving when in reality it is quite the opposite.
The promise of success for CSKA Moscow obviously does not hang upon the actions of a single individual however Vagner Love’s undoubted ability in the Premier League would be a significant loss should a deal be struck for him to leave. For the player himself a move back to Brazil would be an expression of his lack of drive and ambition. He is a player who thrives on adulation – he wants to be made to feel like the superstar he remains in his mind but that he hasn’t quite become in Europe. Moscow and Vagner Love may not be a match made in heaven but you can’t help but feel that the two have unfinished business – that can only be completed when the Brazilian holds the Premier League trophy above his head to roar of CSKA’s fans.