Russia defeated Portugal in their most recent FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier to take full control of Group F. The goal came courtesy of Zenit St Petersburg striker Alexander Kerzhakov and continued the impressive start to manager Fabio Capello’s reign in Moscow. The Italian often found himself scorn by the English press but in Russia, they are warming to the 66-year-old.
He is probably used to troublesome groups of players after the John Terry affair that defined his Three Lions reign and since taking over with the Euro 2008 semi-finalists he has had to deal with his fair share of problems once again. First there is the captain, Igor Denisov, who has been making headlines off the pitch with his disciplinary issues at Russian champions Zenit. The ‘Russian Roy Keane’ fell afoul of the club hierarchy over the arrival of big money foreign signings Hulk and Axel Witsl to the degree that he and fellow Russian international Kerzhakov were forced to train with the reserves by another Italian coach, Luciano Spaletti.
Then there is Alan Dzagoev, the prodigious talent of the national side and CSKA Moscow who impressed so many at the European Championships. He was sent off for the second time this season at the end of September after punching an opponent.
As with Terry, Capello has seen past the indiscrepancies and decided to call upon the pair with great effect.
But another interesting dynamic arising at the club is the Italian’s reluctance to call upon players not plying their trade in Russia. Andrei Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak have both been excluded from recent squads as Capello picks players who are playing regular football in their homeland ahead of the players who have travelled to foreign land. In the current set-up there is also no place for fellow former England pats Yuriy Zhirkov and Roman Pavyluchenko with only Diniyar Bilyaletidinov recognisable to English fans.
So with that come the transfer rumours relating to Alan Dzagoev and Igor Denisov. The CSKA starlet has been linked with Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester City of late as well as Serie A side Roma. Meanwhile Igor Denisov reportedly alerted Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson to his availability due to his turbulent relationship with the Zenit board not to mention mooted interest from Real Madrid and AC Milan.
Whether either will want to leave and potentially jeopardise their place in the Russian national side however is an entirely different matter.
What do you make of Fabio Capello’s start to life in Russia and the potential futures of Denisov and Dzagoev?
image: © rafizeldi