The other main Russian name in European transfer talk this week has been midfielder Andrei Arshavin. But why, asks Luke Harding, has it taken the rest of Europe so long to notice the qualities of the midfielder behind both Russian progress at Euro 2008, and the UEFA Cup and Russian title wins for his club side Zenit St. Petersburg?
It seems that Russian journalists first
noticed him aged 23, but with Russia missing out on both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, he lacked the international platform to garner attention. The player himself often behaved like "a spoiled
kid," said one observer, and so his erratic temperament and perceived laziness on the field outweighed the fact that, according to journalist Anton Lisin, Arshavin "was driven. He was highly
skillful. Technically, he was a very good player. He could see the pitch. And he was an outstanding passer of the ball."
The arrival of Dutchman Dick Advocaat at Zenit meant a new
era of more disciplined coaching, and this, coupled with Guus Hiddink's tenure as national team coach and a settling down in the player's personal life (he is married with two children), has
yielded better results both on and off the field. There are still question marks over his temperament, but Zenit has said they will not stand in the way of the player's professed desire to move to
Barcelona this summer.