MOSCOW (AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin has mocked top club Zenit St. Petersburg for not fielding enough Russian players.
With Russia hosting the World Cup next year, Putin told a meeting of sports officials that Zenit couldn’t claim to be popularizing soccer as a “truly Russian game” because it didn’t give enough starts to Russian players.
When Zenit president Sergei Fursenko suggested more attractive styles of play could attract fans and make football “a real Russian game,” Putin hit back.
Apparently referring to Zenit’s last Europa League group stage game against Spain’s Real Sociedad, the Russian president says, “you’ve got eight foreigners running across the pitch, playing for Zenit in the Europa League, well done,” in televised remarks.
Zenit started against Sociedad with three Russians, five Argentines, a Slovenian, a Serbian and an Italian. Three Russians came on as substitutes.
Russian league games allow seven non-Russians on the pitch at any time.
UEFA Champions League Tuesday preview: Arsenal, Roma in tough spot
And for some, like Arsenal, it’s the absolute truth. A loss for the Gunners to Bayern Munich — hardly unexpected — would leave them 0-for-3 in group stage games with a visit to the Allianz Arena still to come.
Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich
Aside from the home field advantage provided by the Emirates Stadium, things don’t bode well for the Gunners. The opponents have both faced Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb. Arsenal is 0-2, having allowed give goals. Bayern is 2-0, scoring eight and not conceding a single tally.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Olympiakos
The winner of this battle will be alone in Group F’s second place, and both are dreaming of the knockout rounds after taking care of Arsenal earlier in group play.
Dynamo Kyiv vs. Chelsea
This is a brutal and tricky trip for the Blues, probably the most difficult to navigate fixture of Group G outside of the other three clubs’ trips to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea enters the match in third place, but will fancy its chances to take all three points from Andriy Yarmolenko, Niko Kranjcar and Dynamo.
Porto vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv
The Israeli side is another club on the brink after starting 0-2 and failing to score a goal. Going to Porto is no cakewalk for any club, and Maccabi could find the end of Tuesday with very little hope of advancing to the knockout rounds.
Zenit Saint-Petersburg vs. Lyon
Don’t mess with Hulk and Danny (and Javi Garcia… and Axel Witsel). The Russian powers are off to a great start in Group H, and can essentially seal its fate in the knockout rounds with a win.
Valencia vs. Gent
Fancy Valencia’s chances here, though Gent has been valiant both its defeat at Zenit and home draw versus Lyon.
Neymar has filled the void of Lionel Messi, inasmuch as filling the shoes of the best player in the world is possible. But Barca’s Belarusian opponents present a hostile place to play, having knocked off Roma this season and Athletic Bilbao last UCL season.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. AS Roma
The Serie A side had its chance to lick its UCL wounds, having fell at BATE and drawn at home against Barca. Now it needs a big road result against Bundesliga opposition, an enemy that plays quite well at home.
The Baggies are going back to Eastern Europe for another record signing.
One year after breaking its transfer record in buying Brown Ideye from Dynamo Kiev for $17.1 million, West Bromwich Albion has moved to Russia for Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Salomon Rondon.
This time, it’s going to cost them about $18.7 million, and could be the next step in the sale of Saido Berahino, who has been consistently linked with Tottenham Hotspur amongst other suitors. West Brom has also added Rickie Lambert to their striker stable, which includes Ideye and Victor Anichebe.
Rondon, a six-foot-2 striker, turns 26 next month. He scored 20 goals in 44 games for Zenit en route to the Russian double, also scoring the goal in Venezuela’s 1-0 win over Colombia at this summer’s Copa America.
“He’s got a fantastic goalscoring record in some of the top leagues in Europe and for his country,” says Pulis. “He’s 25 years of age and still to fulfil his full potential.“We hope he hits the ground running of course but understand it might take him time to settle. I’m sure our fans will help him and get behind him.“But we feel with age on his side and the prices English clubs are asking for their players, it’s a deal worth doing.
A center forward, he’s scored 20 goals in back-to-back years. Before that, he netted 27 goals over two years at Malaga.
Ideye scored 7 goals in 30 matches for the Baggies last season, growing his production once Tony Pulis took over at West Brom.
The Baggies open their Premier League season later Monday against Manchester City. Rondon won’t be in the lineup, but will Berahino? Will the price of young English players often inflated, the Baggies will likely cash in soon.
With two-months to go on his current deal with Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin claims that he is ready to quit football.
The winger, who signed from Zenit St. Petersburg for an Arsenal club record $23m (£15m) in February 2009, was hugely popular among supporters after his initial move to the Emirates where he collected 6 goals and 5 assists in 12 matches. Four of those goals came in fantastic fashion against Liverpool in a historic 4-4 clash at Anfield.
The good times kept rocking in 2009/10 when he racked up 10 goals and 1 assist in 30 league matches and in 2010/11 when he scored 6 goals in 37 league appearances and impressed with 11 assists in a new found role as provider.
But in Fall 2011 the wheels came off as Arshavin’s once-devastating quickness evaporated leaving the him short on confidence and visibly upset. During that time the Russian international was also believed to be going through a split from his wife, who soon thereafter gave birth to their third child. His form slumped prompting Arsene Wenger to inform Arshavin that he would not be considered a first-team regular but could stay and fight for his place.
Arshavin accepted the challenge earning 26 league appearances over the two year span but only scored a single goal during that time. He also failed to impress during a six month loan spell at Zenit last Spring and returned back to the Emirates in the summer. Arshavin’s on and off field tribulations had turned a once brilliant footballer into a shell of his former self.
Suffice to say, Arsenal will not be offering Arshavin a new deal this summer. Even worse – other clubs have yet to inquire about his services. It was thought that the MLS would be a good place for the player to clear his head but rumors of interest from the Los Angeles Galaxy have since been deemed inaccurate. This past January he was reportedly available for as little as £1m. Reading was the only club to make an offer but Arshavin declined it stating privately that he had no interest in playing for a club at the bottom of the Premier League.
With Zenit and London-based clubs no longer interested in his services Arshavin is reportedly prepared to retire from football. Sources close to him claim he could still sign somewhere if presented with the right situation. There’s little doubt that clubs will inquire about the forward’s services – whether Arshavin is willing to get on with the game or hang up the boots, is solely up to him.
Arshavin’s impending departure means his $145k (£95k) per week salary can now be allocated to the contracts of recently re-signed players like Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, or, can be used to bring in fresh blood during the summer transfer window. Arsenal are rumored to be interested in a variety of players including Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye, Barcelona’s David Villa, Montpellier’s Younes Belhanda, Swansea’s Ashley Williams and Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Amorebieta.