Racing from the Rouble in Russia

As the currency continues the slide back to early-2015 levels, players whose contracts are in Roubles are beginning to panic while some with contracts in foreign currency (most notably Sterling, Euro and Dollar) are being nicely asked to vacate the premises. While some clubs have the financial muscle to survive the growing crisis, the majority of Premier and FNL clubs are in trouble.

Zenit’s refusal to listen to offers for Hulk led to his infamous pout and boycott of the World Cup 2018 draw. Naturally it was spun by Western media (eagerly fed by his agent) that it was a protest to “racist” abuse from fans, and a referee, that he was snubbing the event. When the club refused to give in he subsequently did his contracted bits away from the main stage. For Hulk and his agent, as well as the media circus, all was fair in a transfer and political war. Zenit need him, or at least a massive transfer fee for him, so he will stay.


Dinamo Moscow, however, continue to struggle having fallen afoul of FFP rules and missing out on the Europa League as a result. Unable to afford to keep over-priced talent like Kevin Kuranyi (to Hoffenheim) and Gordon Schildenfeld (to Dinamo Zagreb), the club have been forced to give youth a fling and bolster the side with solid free agent journeymen like Anton Sosnin (from Kuban Krasnodar) and Vitali Dyakov (from Rostov).

The loss of the expensive but quality Mate Balbuena to Olympic Lyon will hurt Dinamo, as will Balazs Dzsudzsák’s departure for Bursaspor, yet it looks like getting worse.

Hints have turned to rumours and now the captain, Aleksandr Kokorin’s 29million euro release fee might well be triggered before the end of the month. While Manchester United have refused to comment on any transfer story related to the inconsistent striker, according to Russian sports media Kokorin is the hottest property in Europe right now. So what about this bright young thing from Russia’s deep south?

Kokorin has been a prospect since his early days in the southern oblast of Belgorod. From coming through the youth section of Lokomotiv Moscow he crossed the capital from East to West to join Dinamo with immediate effect. Making history as the club’s youngest Premier League scorer (hitting an equaliser in an eventual 2-1 win over Moscow Oblast club Saturn), a month later in November 2008 scored the only goal of the game against the club who raised him, Lokomotiv.

Kokorin has been largely deployed on the left wing and while he’s not overly fast, he can get by players, though in the Russian Premier that’s not too great a compliment. In his first spell with Dinamo he had a poor return on games-goals, though he was always capable of doing more. He set up others and is selfless at times, though this also smacks of a lack of confidence, and/or intelligence.

Having turned 24 earlier this year I’ve been following his development since first seeing him play in 2007 for Lokomotiv’s Youth Team. Back then he was a nice kid who was polite and helpful, though being nice on the pitch is not a pre-requisite for success. Though he still makes the same basic errors he did in his youth days, and certainly doesn’t display the qualities needed to be a captain, it seems to be a case of last man standing in the decimated Dinamo dressing-room when it came to the captain’s armband and becoming the great hope for Russian football.

He has a steely side, however, at least in his transfer dealings. Jumping ship to Dinamo and later moving in a nice money washing deal to Anzhi Makhachkala. There he stayed for a quick Hello, before returning to Dinamo when the Anzhi meltdown went into full swing. He didn’t manage a game for the club, though his brittle physique had more to do with that than anything else.

Should Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United, Spurs or Arsenal sign the player, then they will be taking a chance that not even Zenit were willing to, and they signed Artem “Big Daddy” Dzyuba. Kokorin is two-faced in that he is a flat-track bully (beating up on poor sides) and big game Charlie (showing up well in big matches). Like Arshavin, he is talented, can pick a pass and score goals, but his development physically, technically and tactically has been so lacking, that he cannot be depended upon by a serious side looking to win trophies.

And even the mighty giant Zenit need to trim the fat, literally in the case of Andrei Arshavin. The former Zenit and Russian idol was his rotund self last season and found the club unwilling to grant him a new contract. So now with his wage being funded by the Governor of Krasnodar, he’s lining out for Kuban alongside fellow English Premier League disappointment Roman Pavlyuchenko (who joined on a free from Lokomotiv Moscow).


The two stars of Euro 2008 arrive in a club where most players are unpaid for almost 12 months and one of the most valuable assets, ex-Marseille midfielder Charles Kabore, is refusing to train or play for the club in order to force a move. Naturally his agent has buyers lined up, though who will take a chance on the committed but temperamental Burkina Faso star. Lokomotiv? Not Spartak, though a return to France might happen.

And Zenit look like keeping ex-Rubin Cristian Ansaldi $2million off the budget, even if he has to take a pay cut to join Benfica. The player is willing and it would make sense for an overloaded Zenit.

With plenty of time for deals to be made in this transfer window, we’ll soon see who will take a gamble on a moody and under-developed Russian starlet or a stroppy naturalised Frenchman, or the son of the owner of Dinamo. Last month Papa Rotenberg (Boris) resigned as Chairman/President of Dinamo, with son Boris Jr still on the books.

Rotenberg Jr made ten appearances (nine starts) for Dinamo last year and his form meant a call-up to the Finnish National Team in June’s friendly with Estonia. Aged 29, he started at right full back and was subbed off at the half. He was a good luck charm for the former team of the secret police last season, with Dinamo never losing when he was on the field (and he’s done the same this season too)!

Boris Jr is not a bad player though he’s not really suited to the Russian Premier, or Russian football. A player with nice skill he’d be far better off getting stuck into the League of Ireland Premier Division or a similar league that prefers players to be men. Who knows, big spending Cork City might yet look to solve their injury crisis by recruiting yet another internationally capped player!

The Author

Alan Moore

Russian-based sports journalist, commentator, radio host & consultant. Worked with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports 3.0, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and FIFA World Cup commentator.

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