GROUP A: Advocaat’s last days,CSKA’s record breakers & Arshavin’s last chance.

We continue our countdown to EURO 2012 with Dick Advocaat’s Russian team. Russia will start preparations for Euro 2012 on May 20. The team will play three friendly matches until the end of the month. Russia will host Uruguay in Moscow on May 25 and will face Latvia and Italy in Switzerland on May 29 and June 1 respectively.

Russia kick off their EURO 2012 campaign against the Czech Republic on June 8. Russia has never won an international tournament as an independent state. The Soviet Union team featuring goalkeeping great Lev Yashin won the first ever European Championship in 1960.The team has been unbeaten in 11 matches now, conceding only 3 goals.

No huge contenders in this group. All teams are solid and could place almost anywhere. Asharvin could have quite an impact on the group, and their midfield and defence is solid.

At the last Euros Russia reached the semifinals, winning against any team they met on their way apart from the soon-champions Spain. This time on, Advocaat’s men will be facing easier opposition in Czech Republic, Poland and Greece, hence making them obviously the best team in Group A. The Russians are in the same group with Greece for the third successive European Championships.

10 years ago Kerzhakov and Izmailov couldn’t qualify after being drawn with Tunisia, co-hosts Japan and Belgium at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. This time again, Russia is in the same group with co-hosts Poland.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts are currently ranked 11th in the world. The problem is that Hiddink’s era was over, but Advocaat’s era never came. The Dutchman still calls up the old guards, forgetting Russia’s new generation of footballers.

Statistics against:

Czech Republic

The only time the teams met was at Euro 96 Group C last day match, when the substitute Vladimir Smicer’s 89th minute goal ended the wonderful 6-goal encounter between the teams and gave Czech Republic the chance to reach the quarterfinals and go all the way to the final. However, Dick Advocaat lost two and tied one match against Czech Republic, while in charge of Netherlands national team.

Poland

The teams have only met in friendly matches. Both teams have won once with Russia scoring and conceding 5 goals.

Greece

Russia has met Greece ten times. The Russians have won four won times and lost only once. Those two teams have always met in the group stage whenever both of them appeared at European Championships. Both of those matches were won by Russia, including the one at Euro 2004, where the future champions did not lose any other matches. The Greek miracle could have remained a dream, had Dmitri Kirichenko used his easy chance to score in the dying minutes of the match.

HIDDINK’S MIDAS TOUCH | ANDREY ARSHAVIN HAS  THE LAST LAUGH

Guus Hiddink replaced Yuri Semin in 2006 when the latter failed to qualify his team for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The Dutch man who was successful at Australia, the Netherlands and South Korea would lead Russia to the 2008 European Championships.

Russia was drawn in group E with England, Croatia, Israel, Macedonia, Estonia, and Andorra. Russia began their Euro 2008 campaign by drawing their first two games. But the highlight of the qualifying campaign was in Moscow. Russia came from behind to beat England 2–1 with Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring both goals. Russia suffered a 2–1 defeat to Israel to put qualification hopes in jeopardy. Despite the defeat, Russia still managed to qualify with a 1–0 win over Andorra while England suffered a 3–2 defeat to Croatia, at Wembley. Russia finished with 24 points, 1 point above England who had 23 points

Prior to Euro 2008,star man Arshavin was sent off for violent conduct in the Russians’ 1-0 victory at Andorra which sealed passage to the finals on the night England famously lost 3-2 at home to Croatia at Wembley.

In the Euro 2008 tournament, Russia were drawn into Group D with Sweden and Euro 2004 group rivals Spain and Greece. Shava was one of the stars of Guus Hiddink’s side, but the playmaker missed the first two games and could have cost his side qualification.

Russia was heavily beaten by Spain in their opening Euro 2008 game. David Villa scored a hat-trick and Fàbregas added a fourth after Roman Pavlyuchenko had scored a consolation header. Russia won the next game against Greece, 1–0, with Konstantin Zyryanov being the lone goal scorer.

Arshavin returned in Russia’s last game. Roman Pavlyuchenko and Arshavin scored in Russia’s 2-0 win over Sweden. Andrey Arshavin was one of the stars of Euro 2008 as Russia raced to the semi-finals with some impressive performances, including a stunning 3-1 win over Holland in the last eight.Russia then lost to Spain in the semi-final. Xavi put Spain 1–0 just after half-time. Güiza and David Silva also scored, making the final score 3–0, and eliminating Russia.

PAST RECORD IN THE EUROS 

1960

Winners

1988

Runners-up

1964

Runners-up

1992

Group stage

1968

Fourth place

1996

Group stage

1972

Runners-up

2000

Did not qualify

1976

Did not qualify

2004

Group stage

1980

Did not qualify

2008

Semi-final

1984

Did not qualify

2012

Qualified as group winners

Russia inherited the international legacy of the Soviet Union.

They were second in 1988.They reached the final four in 2008 before being eliminated by eventual champions Spain.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED

Only Italy conceded fewer goals than Russia among the 51 nations competing for Euro 2012 participation.  Given the talent at the disposal of the coach and the relatively weak nature of their group, Russia came close to sabotaging their own passage to the finals.

GROUP B

GP

GD

PTS

1 Russia(Q)

10

7

2

1

13

23

2 Ireland(P)

10

6

3

1

8

21

3 Armenia

10

5

2

3

12

17

4 Slovakia

10

4

3

3

-3

15

5 Macedonia

10

2

2

6

-6

8

6 Andorra

10

0

0

10

-24

0

Russia failed to show any great performance during the campaign, which became a topic to discuss for the Russian media. Advocaat either believes that the new generation is not good enough or simply trusts the experienced players, but the fact is that he sticks to very little number of players including the presence of overage midfielders Igor Semshov (34) and Zyryanov (34). They only assured themselves of automatic qualification on the penultimate match day with a 1-0 win away at Slovakia. That avenged the Slovaks’ win on Russian soil on match day two which left the two teams tussling with Ireland for top spot.

TOP SCORERS

4 – Alan Dzagoev, Roman Pavlyuchenko
2 – Aleksandr Kerzhakov,Pavel Pogrebnyak
1 – Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Denis Glushakov, Sergei Ignashevich, Igor Semshov, Roman Shirokov

A win over the Irish in Dublin was the highlight of the qualifiers but there were slip-ups away to Armenia and at home to Ireland. Nonetheless, the defence was sturdy, giving up only four goals, while seven of 10 qualification matches ended in wins for Russia, the most impressive being the 6-0 mauling of Andorra on the matchday.

THE MANAGER | DIRK NICOLAAS ‘DICK’ ADVOCAAT
After the European championship I’ll go.I haven’t told the (Russia) players yet. I’m sure that this news won’t influence our preparation for the Euros. We will make every effort to have a successful tournament.”-Dick Advocaat.

Advocaat has managed to qualify for a major competition on his first attempt. Something you can’t really satisfy the Russian fans with, but still, something that doesn’t happen every time.

The Dutchman’s deal expires after the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. He will return to club management with PSV Eindhoven. PSV has failed to win the Eredivisie for the 4th successive season, longest run since 1993-1996.Dick Advocaat broke that jinx in 1997.He hopes to become only the second manager to win the Eredivisie in two different stints with the club .Only Guus Hiddink has managed to do that.

The widely-travelled Advocaat has coached teams to domestic title success on four occasions, once each with PSV and Russia’s Zenit St Petersburg and twice with Rangers in Scotland. He has also won the EersteDivisie (1st division) with FC Dordrecht (formerly SVV),the KNVB Cup and Johan Cruijff-schaal with PSV,two Scottish Cups and one Scottish League Cup with Rangers,one Russian Super Cup with Zenit St.Petersburg.

His greatest success as a coach was winning the 2008 UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup with Zenit.He has also had spells in charge of Holland, South Korea, United Arab Emirates and Belgium.

After being chosen to lead Russians when the Guus Hiddink era was over, Dick Advocaat, a usual substitute to Hiddink, gave away his job as Belgium coach and returned to Russia He has been criticized for not giving Russia’s brightest young players a chance in the team.
However, he has managed to patch together enough decent results with ‘Hiddink’s team’ to take his team to Euro 2012. Advocaat has his favourites: Arshavin,Zhirkov and co. Most of the Russian players have been a shadow of their former selves club and country over the last 18 months or so and benefit on from Advocaat’s willingness to stick by his favoured eleven.

Advocaat has a wealth of managerial experience, having coached in Russia, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and South Korea. Eventhough the 64-year-old took the Netherlands to the semi-final stage of UEFA Euro 2004, the Dutch media criticized him. Shortly after the tournament, with mounting pressure and even death threats, Advocaat quit his job as head coach on 6 July 2004. He then went briefly back into club management with German club Borussia Mönchengladbach, however he resigned on 18 April 2005 after less than six months at the helm.

 
Dick Advocaat has named his provisional 26-man squad for the upcoming European Championship. His lineup for Euro 2012 is a largely unchanged from the one that reached the tournament’s semifinals four years ago. Advocaat dropped former Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who now plays for Spartak Moscow

The only surprise is that Advocaat has selected Sporting Lisbon’s Marat Izmailov for the first time in his tenure thanks to the 29-year-old’s tremendous club form since his return from a persistent knee injury.Izmailov was a regular for Russia in the early 2000s but won the last of his 31 caps in an October 2006 1-1 draw with Israel, a Euro 2008 qualifier.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeyev (CSKA Moscow), Vyacheslav Malafeyev (Zenit St. Petersburg), Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow).

Defenders: Alexander Anyukov (Zenit St. Petersburg); Alexei Berezutsky (CSKA Moscow), Vasily Berezutsky (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow); Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow); Yuri Zhirkov (Anzhi), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Roman Sharonov (Rubin Kazan), Roman Shishkin (Lokomotiv Moscow).

Midfielders: Igor Denisov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Konstantin Ziryanov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (Zenit St. Petersburg); Denis Glushakov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Magomed Ozdoyev (Lokomotiv Moscow), Igor Semshov (Dynamo Moscow).

Strikers: Andrei Arshavin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St. Petersburg); Alan Dzagoyev (CSKA Moscow), ArtemDzyuba (Spartak Moscow), Marat Izmailov (Sporting Lisbon), Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Lokomotiv Moscow), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham).

THE CAPTAIN | ANDREY ARSHAVIN

“When I turned 17, I had to choose which university to attend. My friends and I decided to try for the technology and design institute because there were lots of girls among the students and you didn’t have to study too hard, or so we thought. I enrolled in the chemical technology department. But when I began training with Zenit I had to miss a lot of classes. I transferred to the clothes design department. I have designed several garments myself.”– Andrey Arshavin

 

 Andrey Sergeyevich Arshavin (30) was named Russia’s captain 3 years ago by manager Guus Hiddink.He was Hiddink’s superstar and a member of the symbolic squad at Euro 2008.His national team debut came exactly ten years ago. His first goal with the squad came in a friendly match versus Romania on 13 February 2003. Since then, he has managed to score in every competition which Russia has participated in. He was Russia’s captain in a Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia. Shava has scored 17 goals in 68 appearances for Russia.

Now the Zenit St. Petersburg (on loan from Arsenal) attacking midfielder will lead his country to glory in Poland and Ukraine.

In the 2007 Russian Premier League season, Shava  guided his Zenit Saint Petersburg side to the title, scoring 11 goals.Arshavin’s performances in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Euro 2008 brought him to the attention of several European clubs. The Russian Football Face for the World Cup 2018 bid has won everything possible with Zenit,a club he began his career with 12 years ago. He’s won the Russian Premier League twice (in 2007 and 2012), Russian Premier League Cup (2003), Russian Super Cup (2008), UEFA Cup (2008) and was named Man of the Match in the final and the UEFA Super Cup (2008).and won many awards and accolades including the prestigious Russian Footballer of the Year.

Shava has written three books including one called ‘555 Questions and Answers on Women, Money, Politics and Football’.Arshavin also has a degree in Fashion Design.His intelligence and enormous experience are going to be the key to Russian possible success at the Euro. After being harshly criticized for his passivity both for Arsenal and Russian national team, he showed determination towards the Euro, when returning back to Zenit St. Petersburg to earn more playing time. This is probably the last European Championship for Arshavin. 

Arshavin was included in Russia’s Euro 2008 squad by manager Hiddink, despite being unable to play in the first two group matches due to suspension.He announced his return by setting up the 1st goal and scoring the second in Russia’s final group game against Swedenwhich helped his team qualify for the next round.

In the next match, the quarter-final against the Netherlands, Arshavin repeated the feat with his part in Russia’s two goals in the second half of extra time, providing the cross for Dmitri Torbinski’s goal and scoring his own four minutes later. Russia consequently reached the semi-finals with a 3–1 victory. For both of these games, UEFA awarded him Man of the Match. However, Arshavin could not repeat the heroics in the semi-final against eventual winners Spain, which Russia lost 3–0. Despite this, Arshavin was named in UEFA’s squad for Euro 2008.

He signed for Arsenal in 2009, where he immediately became their most expensive player bought for a fee of £15 million.Though only played in the Russian league before, Arshavin got easily accustomed to the English Premier League. He is best known for his poker against Liverpool and his trustworthiness – Arsene Wenger appointed him as a captain in one of the matches after Arshavin had been at Arsenal for only 3 months.

Arshavin was named Man of the Match when he scored all four Arsenal goals in a tight match against Liverpool at Anfield, which ended 4–4. He is also the first player to score four goals in a single league match at Anfield since Dennis Westcott for Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1946.

This season,he has been criticized by the English media for his sub par performances. During a game against Manchester United, Arshavin was booed when he came on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Arshavin sealed a loan move to his boyhood club Zenit Saint Petersburg for the remainder of the season.An intention to hold on to a place in Russia’s Euro 2012 squad was the reason behind Arshavin’s move to Luciano Spalletti’s side in St. Petersburg.

His form and attitude need to improve before the tournament proper.

CSKA’S RECORD BREAKERS | ALAN DZAGOEV

Alan Dzagoev is part of a new generation of players from the Russian Premier League and Russian national football team. His teammate Akinfeev is a brilliant shot-stopper and commands his box well.

CUSTODIAN | IGOR AKINFEEV

“I could tell you again and again that I’ll be ready, that I’ll travel there, but no one needs a one-legged goalkeeper.I’m the sort of person who, if my leg hurts, won’t force my way in and disturb someone else if a healthy guy can play better than me. So, everything will depend on me and the state of my knee.”-Igor Akinfeev

Chelsea target Igor Vladimirovich Akinfeev (26) was appointed ambassador of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia by the Ministry of Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy. He is expected to be the powerhouse of the Russian national football team as the team’s goalkeeper.

He broke into the CSKA starting lineup at the age of 17, and has been the first-choice goalkeeper at the club ever since, gathering various honors including a UEFA Cup, three National Championships, and the Zvezda trophy, awarded to the best football player from the former Soviet Union. He won the Russian championship in his debut season in 2003. He won both domestic trophies with CSKA in 2005 as well as the UEFA Cup; started all 19 of their European matches in 2004/05 (UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup combined), conceding 12 goals and keeping clean sheets in all four UEFA Cup home ties.

He won his third Russian title in 2006 before sustaining knee ligament damage in May 2007 that sidelined him for six months.

He is also the captain of CSKA Moscow. In his second Champions League campaign, he went 362 minutes without conceding a goal.

Igor Akinfeev made his debut for Russia aged 18 years and 20 days. He thus became the youngest international footballer ever in the history of Russian football . He did not play at UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal, where he was third-choice custodian, but started all five games at UEFA EURO 2008 as Russia reached the semi-finals.

He started all 30 Premier-Liga fixtures for CSKA in both 2008 and 2009, and missed just two matches in 2010 as the Army Men finished second. Akinfeev, 26, has spent his entire career at CSKA, making 325 appearances, including 71 in European competitions.

He has been Russia’s first-choice goalkeeper since 2005, and has 50 caps for his country.

Akinfeev suffered more injury woe this season and had been sidelined for eight months after sustaining knee ligament damage in a league game against city rivals FC Spartak Moscow but returned recently from injury. He was voted the best goalkeeper of the game in CSKA Moscow’s game vs. Kuban Krasnodar on May 8, 2012.

Akinfeev feared the long-term knee injury was going to prevent him from playing at Euro 2012.

THE FUTURE | ALAN DZAGOEV

He’s gelled into the team very well. Alan is a really clever player with the ability to make a killer pass and stretch the play. He proved that in Germany once again.”-Guus Hiddink.

Manchester United  fans will remember this kid for scoring from a very tight angle during a Champions League which finished 3–3 three years ago. He made a dramatic impact on his UEFA Champions League debut in 2009/10, registering three goals in his opening four games to help CSKA qualify for the first knockout round. He was Russia’s joint top scorer during the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with 4 goals.

Alan Yelizbarovich Dzagoev(21) is definitely the most talented player Russian football has produced in the past 5 years. After joining Krylia Sovetov-SOK in 2006, he remained there for two seasons.Only 17 years old, he joined CSKA Moscow, where he shone already in his first season scoring 8 goals in 20 games. He was also won the Russian Cup that season. He received the Best Young Player of the League 2008 award as well as high appraisal from Hiddink.

After a string of impressive performances at club level, the Dutchman handed him his debut in 2008 in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Germany, thus becoming the second youngest player and the youngest outfield player ever to compete for Russia (18 years and 116 days) after his teammate Igor Akinfeev ever to appear on the pitch for Russian national team. Dzaga has already earned 18 caps scoring 4 goals,all in the qualifiers despite his young age.

This season, the Beslan-born playmaker enjoyed a stellar first half of the Russian Premier League season with his club, CSKA Moscow, and is now considered a starter for his national side.He gives possession away cheaply at times but has the talent to become a very player for club and country.

Dzagoev is always appreciated for being one of the most enthusiastic players in the team. This feature, together with his killer passes and accurate shots are one of the main assets the Russian team is going to bring to Poland and Ukraine this summer. He has finally convinced Advocaat following his fine performances for Russia.

Dzagoev, who currently is out for the rest of the season due to his broken toe, is expected to be fit for the Euro.Dzagoev’s injury is a serious blow for CSKA Moscow’s manager, Leonid Slutsky. Russia’s injury list already includes defenders Sergei Ignashevich,Vasily Berezutsky and Sergei Parshihvlyuk.

The young attacking midfielder has already won the Russian Cup three times in five years (2007–2008, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011) and the Russian Super Cup in 2009.

IBERIAN FAILURE AND LONDON’S HITMEN | POGREB,PAV & KERZHA

The former and current Londoners Pavlyuchenko and Pogrebnyak have the class to lead their national team further to the quarterfinals, which they probably will do. Russia was superior in their Euro 2012 qualification group, full of strong opponents. Russia’s 3 main strikers scored a total of 8 goals.Advocaat’s main selection worry is in attack with Roman Pavlyuchenko, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Alexander Kerzhakov all competing to lead the line.

FOREIGNER | POGREBNYAK

“I was very upset. My injury was not well timed. I supported them on TV and called them wishing them to win.”-Pogrebnyak

Only Pogrebnyak and Marat Izmailov of Sporting Lisbon do not represent a domestic club among all of the national team candidates. Fulham striker Pavel Viktorovich Pogrebnyak (28) will be looking to make up for missed chances at the European Championship after Russia coach Dick Advocaat included him in a preliminary squad on Friday. A left knee injury in a friendly versus Serbia forced Pogrebnyak to watch the last European Championship on television.

This time, the Russia striker is looking have the same impact at Euro 2012 as he did this year in the English Premier League. The former Zenit St. Petersburg star will be eager to make amends in Poland and Ukraine and add to his tally of eight goals in 31 internationals.

The powerful 28-year-old forward exploded onto the scene in January after arriving at Fulham from Stuttgart. He scored only minutes into his Fulham debut and went on to notch five goals in his first three matches, including a hat trick against Wolverhampton Wanderers,the quickest player to reach 5 goals in Premier League history.

He returned from an ankle injury to score the 100th goal of his career in a 2-1 win against Wigan Athletic.

Along with Luca Toni, Pogrebnyak was joint top-scorer in the 2007–08 UEFA Cup season, scoring 10 goals and helping Zenit reach the final, even though he was suspended for the final 2-0 victory over Scottish club Rangers. In the 2008 UEFA Super Cup he scored one of the Zenit’s two goals in the 2–1 over English champions Manchester United.

Pogreb started his football career with Spartak Moscow in 1989 making his debut for the Spartak senior team in 2002 where he scored eight goals in 23 appearances.

In 2003, Pogrebnyak was loaned out to Baltika Kaliningrad.He scored 15 goals for the side but scored only twice on his return to Spartak Moscow. That same season he also scored six goals for FC Khimki in 12 appearances when he was again loaned out by his club. In 2005, Pogrebnyak played for Shinnik Yaroslavl and scored four goals in 23 matches. He joined Tom Tomsk on a permanent basis in 2006, a team his brothers Kirill and Nikolai play for.Pogrebnyak.He scored 13 goals for the club that year.

His time with Zenit was the best of his career.Pogrebnyak joined Zenit St. Petersburg in 2007. He won the league with Zenit in his first season.Pogrebnyak scored the winner in Zenit’s2008 Russian Super Cup .

He joined Stuttgart in 2009.He scored 6 Bundesliga goals in his first season in Germany, 8 in the next but just one from the spot this season. He was on fire at the beginning of last season, scoring four goals in the first four games including a hat-trick in Stuttgart’s 7–0 win against Borussia Mönchengladbach.

This season, his performances at Stuttgart were subpar scoring just once for the German side.Harnik,Okazaki and Cacauwere all ahead of him and Ibisevic’s arrival meant Pogreb had lost his place in the team.Pogrebnyak was loaned our to EPL side Fulham this winter.

A strong tournament in Poland and Ukraine would also help Pogrebnyak negotiate his next club contract as he becomes a free agent when his short-term Fulham deal expires.Fulham coach Martin Jol hopes to keep Pogrebnyak at Craven Cottage after the end of this season.

SUPER PAV | ROMAN PAVLYUCHENKO

 “I explained that if they did not let me go now, when match practice for the European Championship is particularly important, then I would not consider a transfer in the summer.” –Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Roman Anatolyevich Pavlyuchenko (30) moved to Spartak Moscow in 2003, winning the Russian Cup that year. During his time at Spartak, Pavlyuchenko was the club’s most prolific goalscorer, scoring 109 goals in 187 games.

He made his national team debut that year. Roman Pavlyuchenko was in the spotlight when he scored both goals in Russia’s 2–1 victory in a crucial Euro 2008 qualification match against England and went on to score two goals at EURO 2008 and being named in the 23-man Team of the Tournament.

Pavlyuchenko was Russia’s top scorer in the EURO 2012 qualifiers, scoring his first international hat-trick on 4 June 2011 in a match against Armenia. He has scored 20 goals in 45 caps for Russia.

Russia’s premier league top scorer in successive seasons (18 goals in 2006 and 14 goals in 2007), signed for Tottenham in2008. Pavlyuchenko has scored in every English domestic cup competition game he has played in, except for the 2009 Football League Cup Final. He scored 5 goals that season.

In his second season, he was fourth-choice striker for Tottenham, with Harry Redknapp preferring Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe to the Russian. He scored 5 goals again that season but made only 16 appearances in the league. Pavlyuchenko’s scored some important goals for Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League. He scored a decisive third goal as Spurs beat cup holders Inter Milan.The Russian striker scored 10 league goals in the 2010/11 season.

This season, the striker had been a bench warmer.Roman Pavlyuchenko warned Tottenham he would sit out the remaining 18 months of his contract and leave for nothing if they did not let him sign for Lokomotiv Moscow.The Russia striker gave Spurs the ultimatum because he feared for his chances of playing at Euro 2012.

Spurs had wanted to extend Pavlyuchenko’s contract until the end of next season, which would have made the 30-year-old eligible for British citizenship.

Pavlyuchenko signed a deal with Lokomotiv Moscow for a fee of £8 million with Louis Saha as his replacement.Lokomotiv had tried to sign him for more than a year but had always been put off by the demands of Tottenham, who at one stage demanded they turn a profit on his sale.

The former Tottenham man is back in homeland and back among the goals, as his driven effort helped Lokomotiv triumph in the Moscow derby.

PRODIGAL SON | ALEKSANDR KERZHAKOV

“This goes down in the club’s history, because until now the club had never qualified from the group stage … But we strive for the best and aim to advance as far as we can, step by step, and continue moving forward and winning. I believe that in the near future a Russian club will certainly win the Champions League, and I hope it will be Zenit.”-Aleksandr Kerzhakov

Aleksandr Anatolyevich Kerzhakov (29) joined Zenit St. Petersburg in Kerzhakov joined Zenit aged 18 from the illustrious Smena football school in the city in 2001 and made an immediate impression, scoring 14 league goals in 2002 and 13 in 2003.

In 2003, Kerzhakov was his team’s first choice striker which allowed him to become the top scorer of the Russian Premier League, scoring a league-best tally of 18 in 2004.

He also proved his worth in Europe, scoring 13 goals in 21 UEFA Cup matches for Zenit in successive campaigns (2004/05 and 2005/06) and establishing an exciting attacking partnership with Andrey Arshavin which earned them both call-ups to the Russian national team.

Together with Izmailov, Kerzhakov is the team’s only surviving member of Russia’s 2002 FIFA World Cup squad.He also participated at EURO 2004, appearing in one game at both tournaments; scored six goals in qualifying for EURO 2008 but was not selected for the finals by Hiddink.Kerzhakov has scored 17 goals in 58 games for his country.

During the summer of 2006, Dick Advocaat was appointed manager and relegated Kerzhakov to the bench. The striker left Zenit for Sevilla in January 2007 signing a five and a half year contract worth €5 million, as part of the deal of the partnership of the clubs and won two trophies in his first season, the UEFA Cup and Copa del Rey − though only a substitute in each final; returned to Russia a year later, joining Dinamo Moscow, for whom he scored 19 goals in two Premier-Liga campaigns.

Kerzhakov returned to Zenit in January 2010 and enjoyed a superb homecoming season, top scoring with 13 goals as the Sine-Belo-Golubye won the Premier-Liga and Russian Cup; also made a successful return to the international scene under Dick Advocaat, scoring in back-to-back UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers against the Republic of Ireland and Macedonia in October 2010.

He won the Russian Premier League this season, scoring 23 goals for the club. Only CSKA’s Seydou Doumbia (28) has scored more goals than him.

A big shout out to my good friend Kwabena Oduro Snr. (@kobbysnr ).

This  article was written by Nana Abiri (@NOKA88)

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