Russian to make an impact: Why Europe's major leagues should be fearful of RussiaAuthor: Josh Ilan
As the Russian League starts, the current season is greeted with great optimism. With this season being a year and a half to match the leading European leagues schedule, the season will have a normal season then will split into a championship and relegation group. Since CSKA Moscow's UEFA Cup win in 2005 against Sporting Lisbon, the leagues status and growth has been overwhelming. This is due to the fact that in almost every successful league around the World, money is the reason for this.
This started in 2003 when Sibneft, the oil company owned by Russian oil magnet and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, started to sponsor CSKA Moscow, the leagues fortunes started to turn with that UEFA cup victory. Then Zenit St Petersburg's 2008 UEFA Cup victory over Rangers and the Super Cup victory against Manchester United showed the leagues strength. Now this season, Zenit romped to the title under ex Roma boss Luciano Spalletti, breaking 9 records in the process and ending Rubin Kazan's 2 consecutive titles in a row. Now in the round of 16 of the Europa League, 3 Russian teams remain after Rubin Kazan's exit to Twente. Now the Dutch champions look all but through against Zenit after a 3-0 win in Holland. CSKA Moscow also disappointed against Porto, losing 1-0 in Moscow but Spartack Moscow got a brilliant 1-0 result against Ajax in Amsterdam.
It is all good that the teams at the top are doing well, but this doesn't make a league. The teams and the middle and the bottom also have to be strong and this is why Europe's biggest leagues, like England and Germany, have strong teams throughout the league regardless of position. Along with the 4 teams who are possibly a class above the others (CSKA Moscow, Spartack Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg & Rubin Kazan), only Lokomotiv Moscow & Dynamo Moscow could possibly compete in size. Now, this is the season in which Russia rubber stamps his mark amongst Europe's major leagues.
When the 136th richest man in the World Suleiman Kerimov brought Anzhi Makhachkala, they would of never have expected the transfers they got. After a good season in their first season in the Russian Premier league, finishing 11th, another season away from the relegation zone was a realistic target for the modest club. Now Europe is the aim. Even with their rich owner, no-one would have expected a World Cup Winner with Brazil to join the club. When Roberto Carlos joined the club from Corinthians on a 2 and a half year contract worth £10 million pounds, it shocked people in the football World for one of Brazil's best ever defenders to go to Russia. 2 equally impressive Brazilians joined him in goal scoring machine Diego Tardelli and the recently capped defensive midfielder and former Corinthians teammate of Roberto Carlos, Jucilei. Add this to Russian attacking midfielder Shamil Lakhiyalov, who signed for £5 million pounds despite only recently signing for newly promoted side FC Krasnodar, 2 of the best Belgian League performers in Moroccan trickster Mbark Boussoufa from Anderlecht and towering centre back Joao Carlos from Genk, one of the Asian's cups best performers in Uzbek midfielder Odil Ahmedov, Cameroonian full back Benoit Angbwa, 5 former Saturn Moscow Oblast players after their club disbanded and Georgian talent Irakli Klimiashvili, these signings have left the club dreaming high. And there is no reason that a Europa League spot is out of their reach.
The other major signing was from another modest Russian club Terek Grozny, but not with a player. After sacking Spanish coach Victor Munoz after 24 days in charge, they replaced him with a coach with a big point to prove and this risk will ever prove to help his career or all but end it. Ruud Gullit, adored by many and hated by some, was appointed the clubs new manager 3 years after his last post at LA Galaxy. However, unlike Anzhi Makhachkala, no big name signings were made to a squad that is amongst the weakest in the league. A respectable finish amongst the relegation zone will show a shrewd decision, but a likely scenario is a battle in a relegation dogfight.
Most only season odds across any league in the World would have the promoted sides amongst the relegation battlers, but promoted teams Volga Nizhny Novgorod, Kuban Krasnodar and FC Krasnodar should probably change that. Under former Chelsea and Romania defender Dan Petrescu, Kuban Krasnodar look the most likely team to make an impact. With players such as Moldovan pair Sergei Namasco & Igor Armas, Ivory Coast striker Lacina Traore, his strike partner Gigel Bucur, his Romanian counterpart Dacian Varga & winger David Tsorayev, the team should try to push for a place in the Championship table at the end of the year. Volga Nizhny Novgorod have replaced most of the side that got them promoted and have got an almost completely different squad. With signings such as defenders Lasha Sakulvadze & Leilton, the side has improved, but they are probably the weakest out of the promoted sides. The final side is lucky even to be in the league and if it wasn't for the disbandment of Saturn Moscow Oblast, but FC Krasnodar are showing why they should be there. With many signings from the lower rated European leagues in Levski's Brazilian midfielder Joaozinho, Georgian defender Aleksandr Amisulashvili from Kayserispor & Armenia's Yuri Mosvisyan from Randers, the squad looks impressive and should show why they should be in the league, even if it was by luck. With Amkar Perm, Krylia Sovetov Samara, Rostov, Spartack Nalchik, Terek Grozny & Tom Tomsk expected to be in a relegation battle, the promoted sides probably should have the ability to steer clear from this bunch to mid table mediocrity.
Two of the four Moscow clubs in the league have the possible ability to challenge the big 4 for the title. Lokomotiv Moscow brought impressive Croatian midfield Senijad Ibricic, but sold last season's top scorer Oleksandr Aliyev to Dynamo Kyiv. They also sold centre back Rodolfo to Gremio, Wagner to Gaziantepspor and Charles to Santos. With no major selling's, Dynamo Moscow look the likelier of the underachieving pair to challenge. With former German international Kevin Kuranyi amongst their ranks, they added Bosnia captain Zvjezdan Misimovic to their impressive side. A good European challenge, if not a title challenge is needed for these 2 clubs.
Now to the big 4. Reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg made no important transfers, but sold Croatian centre back Ivan Krizanac to Split, Italian midfielder Alessandro Rosina on loan to Serie A strugglers Cesena, Michael Lumb on loan to Aalborg and Belarus striker on loan to Blackpool. However, the squad needed very few improvements after last year's success. CSKA Moscow made just as much impact with Latvian midfielder Aleksandrs Cauna joining on loan from Skonto Riga and centre back Viktor Vasin from Spartack Nalchik. Meanwhile, Rubin Kazan signed midfielder Serhiy Kislyak from BATE Borisov and Rostov midfield Igor Lebedenko, while releasing Macbeth Sibaya, Lasha Sakulvadze, Dato Krvikelia & Rafal Murawski, while Obafemi Martins went on loan to Birmingham City. Spartack Moscow was the busiest club in the transfer window. They signed up and coming Argentinean full back Marcos Rojo from Estudiantes, centre back Rodri from Hercules, Emin Makhmudov from Saturn & Artur Valikayev from Rostov. Their main sellers were Nikola Drincic from FC Krasnodar, Martin Stranzl to Borussia Monchengladbach, Andrei Ivanov to Lokomotiv Moscow & Nikita Bazhenov to Tom Tomsk.
All we know is that the Russians are coming and there place amongst footballs elite could all but be confirmed this season & only 7 years before the World Cup in Russia, the countries league standards have improved at the bottom of the league. At this rate, Russia will be just as big as England, Spain and Germany in terms of its national league by the time the World Cup comes to Russia.
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Im Josh Ilan. I am a massive Bolton Wanderers fan, but will watch football from anywhere in the World. Please comment on my articles on what you think. Also followe me on twitter @FootyAtDaChiken.