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2014 Futbolgrad Top 30 Players (10-1)

2014 Futbolgrad Top 30 Players (10-1)

All statistics, values and average grades are for the 2014/15 season and are kindly provided by whoscored.com and Transfermarkt.de

10. Roman Eremenko (CSKA Moscow, Finland)

Age: 27 years old (19-03-1987)
Position: Defender (Right) Midfielder (Center, Left, Right)
Average Grade: 7.35
Goals: 7
Assists: 4
Games: 19
Price Tag: €13 million

Bio:

Despite the Russian name, and ethnicity, Roman Eremenko plays for the Finnish national side. Roman moved to Finland when he was three, as his father Aleksei left the Soviet Union and Dinamo Moscow in 1990 to play for Finland’s first division team OLS Oulu. Aleksei was part of the early wave of Soviet players that would leave the cash-strapped Soviet Union for the relative riches of the west, even if it meant playing in a less competitive league or country. While both Roman and his brother Aleksei have grown up in Finland and also play for the Finnish national team, neither of the brothers stayed long due to the poor quality of the national league. Unlike his brother, however, Roman attempted to gain his footing in Italy, where he played for Udinese and Siena, before moving to the former Soviet Union. After being loaned out to Dynamo Kiev by Udinese in 2009 Eremenko made the move permanent after just one season. Yet in 2011 mother Russia beckoned when Rubin Kazan paid €13 million for the young Fin with a Russian passport. Alexei became the most expansive Finnish player of all time, and it was the Russian citizenship in particular that made the youngest Eremenko such a hot commodity for Russian football, which at the time had strict restrictions on how many foreigners could be fielded at one time. At Kazan his career blossomed, and financial restrictions, along with front office turmoil, meant that Eremenko was able to leave on a free transfer to CSKA Moscow. Since being at Moscow Eremenko has proven his true worth for the Army Men.

9. Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St. Petersburg, Argentina)

Age: 28 years old (10-10-1986)
Position: Defender (Center)
Average Grade: 6.98
Goals: 1
Assists: 2
Games: 22
Price Tag: €20 million

Bio:

Ezequiel Garay was a big part of Argentina’s run to the World Cup Final in 2014, where the Albiceleste came agonisingly close to winning the World Cup. Many expected the Argentinian to make the move from Portugal to one of the big European leagues, and for a long time it appeared that he could move to Bayern Munich. But instead of lederhosen and weissbier for Garay it was caviar and vodka when he sealed a highly unexpected deal with Gazprom’s subsidiary Zenit. Since arriving in Russia, Garay has been one of the many reasons why Zenit has been able to dominate the Russian Premier League, with the team from the former capital currently seven points clear on top of the table. Yet Garay among others was unable to prevent Zenit falling out of the Champions League, leaving one of Europe’s most expensive teams playing only for the Europa League. In the past South Americans have shown that it takes a bit longer to adapt to the Russian game, especially in the winter which can arrive as early as October. Despite the Champions League failure early signs suggest that Garay has immense potential and that Zenit will be an unstoppable force in Russia for the foreseeable future.

8. Bibras Natkho (CSKA Moscow, Israel)

Age: 26 years old (18-02-1988)
Position: Defensive Midfielder (Centre)
Average Grade: 7.35
Goals: 9
Assists: 6
Games: 22
Price Tag: €9 million

Bio:

Bibras Natkho is an Israeli-Circassian footballer, and therefore one of the most culturally diverse players not only at CSKA but also in the Israeli national team, where he is one of the few Muslim players in the starting eleven. Circassians arrived in Palestine in the 1870s after they were expelled from the Caucasus by the Russian Empire, and because Circassians speak Adyghe, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet; as such they are often confused with recent immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union. The truth, however, is that Circassians have been a well-integrated Muslim community in modern Israel. Natkho is a prime example of this as he has undergone his entire youth development in Israel and has played at all levels for the Israeli national team. Regardless of this, in 2010 he moved to the country of his forefathers when he signed for Rubin Kazan for €650,000. The strong Muslim culture, and almost Ottoman traditions of the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, helped Natkho to quickly establish himself as one of the most exciting up-and-coming players of the Russian Premier League. In the winter of 2014 he moved to PAOK Salonika but returned to Russian football after just half a season when he signed for CSKA Moscow last summer where he has been a revelation, scoring 8 goals in 13 Premier League games as a defensive midfielder.

7. Christopher Samba (Dinamo Moscow, Congo)

Age: 30 years old (28-03-1984)
Position: Defender (Center)
Average Grade: 7.50
Goals: 3
Assists: 0
Games: 17
Price Tag: € 9 million

Bio:

Samba’s journey from France to Russia via Berlin is at first glance the typical story of a legionnaire journeyman. Yet he may be one of the most impressive defenders in the short history of the modern Russian game. Samba’s first move to Russia came in 2012 when he moved from Blackburn to Anzhi Makhachkala. It was a time of free spending in the Russian Caucasus, when Anzhi appeared to be Europe’s next super club project. Before coming to Russia Samba had had a promising career at Blackburn, and was on the radar of several bigger European clubs in England, Germany and Spain. Instead he followed the money-paved road to Dagestan and formed a short-lived underachieving all-star team with the likes of Eto’o, Robert Carlos and several other expensive signings. Yet after just one season Samba wanted out of Russia, and Anzhi in particular, because of various instances of racism. After a calamitous stint at Queen’s Park Rangers, which ended after the club was relegated, he returned to Anzhi just to be on the move once again when club sponsor Kerimov started to downsize in the Dagestani capital, with Samba along with several other highly paid players moved to Dinamo Moscow. Here Samba has been truly outstanding both in RPL games but also in the Europa League. Furthermore, Samba has also been one of the few players in Russia to have strongly reacted against forms of racism, with one such action even seeing the player banned by the Russian Football Union. Yet despite all the obstacles Samba faces as a black player playing in Russia his performances together with Valbuena have propelled Dinamo back into contention.

6. Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg, Brazil)

Age: 28 years old (25-07-1986)
Position: Attacking Midfielder (Left, Right) Forward
Average Grade: 7.75
Goals: 9
Assists: 7
Games: 23
Price Tag: €45 million

Bio:

Contrary to popular belief, the nickname was not given to him for his likeness to the comic character, but rather by the player’s obsession with Hulk when he was a child. Thus the other similarities appear to be coincidental, with the real-life Hulk possessing an uncontrollable power depicted by his fictional namesake. Raw strength and determination often rescues Hulk from an otherwise insipid performance. Unfortunately for both Brazil and Zenit, his invisibility has become customary on the bigger stages of the World Cup and the Champions League. Having made a €40 million outlay on the Brazilian, it is of little comfort for Zenit that Hulk has stood out in the Russian league, the bare minimum for a player once the target of Jose Mourinho during his first spell at Chelsea.

5. Andriy Yarmolenko (Dinamo Kiev, Ukraine)

Age: 25 years old (23-10-1989)
Position: Attacking Midfielder (Left, Right)
Average Grade: 7.89
Goals: 12
Assists: 14
Games: 22
Price Tag: € 22 million

Bio:

The Ukrainian runs like a racehorse, which is best appreciated from the terraces or press box rather than through a TV set. A reliable supplier of, Yarmolenko has silenced critics of his lack of goals this season by netting 12 in 21 games. Yarmolenko’s eagerness to cut inside on to his better foot makes his style more akin to Robben or Reus rather than Shevchenko, with whom he has been generously compared in the past. Sheva is a close personal friend of Yarmolenko and the former’s advice will no doubt be sought if and when a move to the West transpires, which may please AC Milan fans.

4. Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow, Ivory Coast)

Age: 26 years old (31-12-1987)
Position: Forward
Average Grade: 6.99
Goals: 11
Assists: 1
Games: 21
Price Tag: €25 million

Bio:

Doumbia’s ability to score goals from nothing as well as his magnetic touch has seen flattering parallels drawn with German legend Gerd Mueller. The Ivorian first made his mark at Young Boys Bern, before moving to Moscow’s Red Army team for €10 million in 2010 despite serious interest from the Bundesliga. It proved a good investment for CSKA with the striker now believed to be worth double what they paid despite struggling to make an impact at international level for the striker-laden Ivory Coast. CSKA’s consistently dismal showings in the Champions League have limited Doumbia’s exposure to fans outside Russia, although he did score a brace against Manchester City this season. However, if the feared exodus of foreign players from the Russian top flight materialises, Doumbia’s name may be adorning football jerseys across Europe soon.

3. Mathieu Valbuena (Dinamo Moscow, France)

Age: 30 years old (28-09-1984)
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Average Grade: 7.66
Goals: 3
Assists: 8
Games: 18
Price Tag: €14 million

Bio:

The Frenchman made the surprise move from Olympique Marseille to Dinamo Moscow after being the standout performer for France in their promising but ultimately futile showing at the World Cup in Brazil. A move to the English Premier League appeared to beckon with Francophile clubs Arsenal and Newcastle United likely destinations but the diminutive French attacking midfielder was lured to the East.

Valbuena’s longevity in Russia is in doubt due to the rouble crisis which has jeopardised the futures of many foreign players who are paid in dollars. The Frenchman could find himself drifting further east as Dinamo have already received a €19 million offer from Shenhua Shanghai. Valbuena however won’t be without European suitors either, but whether they would be willing to match the Chinese offer is unlikely.

2. Luiz Adriano (Shakhtar Donetsk, Brazil)

Age: 27 years old (12-04-1987)
Position: Forward
Average Grade: 7.98
Goals: 14
Assists: 7
Games: 20
Price Tag: € 7 million

Bio:

Some might remember Luiz Adriano for an infamously unsporting goal against Nordsjaelland of Denmark in the Champions League in 2012 but, beyond that indiscretion, the Brazilian has established himself as one of Europe’s most sought-after strikers. Despite an uncharacteristically lean domestic season so far, Luiz Adriano is the Champions League’s top scorer in 2014-15 with 9 goals in 5 appearances, including a record-equalling five-goal haul in one game, against the beleaguered Belarusians BATE Borisov. There are well-grounded suspicions that Luiz Adriano’s future could lie beyond the Ukrainian Premier League with interest from Western Europe rising especially as Shakhtar appear more willing than before to prematurely sell their foreign imports.

1. Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk, Croatia)

Age: 32 years old (01-05-1982)
Position: Defender (Right)
Average Grade: 8.01
Goals: 3
Assists: 4
Games: 20
Price Tag: € 7 million

Bio:

No foreign player has left a bigger mark on Ukrainian football than the Croatian right back Darijo Srna, referred to by some as mister Shakhtar Donetsk. The club captain was one of the few foreign players to speak out on political matters during the Ukrainian crisis in the Donbass. On the pitch, the dependable Croatian has shown a scarcely matched level of consistency for club and country, and his importance and value to Shakhtar outweighs that of any of the club’s more celebrated attacking Brazilian imports.

By Manuel Veth, Al Watt and David McArdle

2014 Futbolgrad Top 30 Players (20-11)

2014 Futbolgrad Top 30 Players (20-11)

No. 20 Joãozinho (Krasnodar, Brazil)

Birthday: 25 years old (25-12-1988)
Position: Midfielder (Center, Left, Right)
Average Grade: 7.13
Goals: 6
Assists: 4
Games: 20
Price Tag: €8 million

Bio:

Joãozinho’s current club FC Krasnodar represent Russian football’s Cinderella story, having been only formed in 2008. Since then, they have made remarkable progress towards becoming a side that can compete year in, year out for European qualification places, with Joãozinho having played a significant part of this development having arrived from Levski Sofia in 2011. The tiny Brazilian, who only stands at a diminutive 163 centimetres, is now an essential cog of how Krasnodar operate on the field. Through both his resemblance, and ability to convert fantastic free kicks, Joãozinho is often compared to Roberto Carlos, another Brazilian who has tasted life in Russian football; however, a closer comparison would be with Liverpool’s number ten, and fellow Brazilian, Philippe Coutinho. Krasnodar paid €1.5 million for Joãozinho but his transfer value, according to Transfermarkt.de, has since risen to €9 million, which reflects the form of a player very few, other than those intimate with Russian football, have heard about.

No. 19 Saba Kvirkvelia (Rubin Kazan, Georgia)

Birthday: 22 years old (06-02-1992)
Position: Defender
Average Grade: 7.55
Goals: 0
Assists: 2
Games: 19
Price Tag: €1 million

Bio:

Kvirkvelia’s height (197cm) and weight (80 kilograms) demonstrate the physical potential of the young defender as well as on what aspects need to be worked on in for the order for the Imereti-born youngster to develop. Eighty kilograms will not be enough to make Kvirkvelia a formidable defender in one of the top three European leagues, having found Russian football already a touch overly physical. That being said Kvirkvelia has performed well for his club, especially when one considers the fact that they are currently experiencing a transition, having played all 19 games for Rubin Kazan up until the winter break. Kvirkvelia also made his debut for Georgia in March 2014, and if developed the right way, the young Georgian could finally bring some defensive stability to his deteriorating national side.

No. 18 Aleksandr Kokorin (Dinamo Moscow, Russia)

Birthday: 23 years old (19-03-1991)
Position: Attacking Midfielder (Center); Forward
Average Grade: 7.15
Goals: 9
Assists: 4
Games: 18
Price Tag: €18 million

Bio:

Aleksandr Kokorin, along with Alan Dzagoev, have for a long time been the promise of a new brand of Russian football. While Dzagoev has not even made this list, because of injuries and a surprising lack of form in the fall of 2014, Kokorin’s talent should have secured him a higher spot on the FGT30 list. In 2013 Kokorin was part of a controversial transfer that took him from Dinamo to Anzhi, and back to Dinamo within a couple months. Needless to say the disorientated Kokorin thereafter struggled for most of the 2013/14 season and like the entire Sbornaya was dismal during the World Cup in Brazil. Yet his statistics since the World Cup show that Kokorin has perhaps understood the gravity of his situation and that the time is now for the young offensive midfielder, who can also play as a false nine, to make his mark on Russian football.

No. 17 Aleksey Ionov (Dinamo Moscow, Russia)

Birthday: 25 years old (18-02-1989)
Position: Attacking Midfielder (Left, Right)
Average Grade: 6.90
Goals: 9
Assists: 2
Games: 21
Price Tag: €4.5 million

Bio:

Aleksey Ionov has hugely benefited from Dinamo’s resurgence in the Russian Premier League. The attacking midfielder, who is equally adept on both sides of the pitch, has been deadly this campaign, scoring 9 goals in 21 games. Ionov arrived at Dinamo as part of the Anzhi fire sale in 2013. With all the big name signings that were swapped between Anzhi and Dinamo during that period Ionov appeared to be somewhat of an afterthought. Now, however, the €5 million paid for the midfielder appears to be an act of robbery, when one takes into account the inflated prices Russian players now demand. Watching Ionov one can become unsure whether or not the midfielder is actually in fact a striker, which may explain his impressive goals tally. The downside to this is that Ionov has a tendency to leave his own defence exposed, with tracking back a task he engages in rarely. At 25 Ionov is in a position to cement his place at both club and national level: whether he chooses to do so will depend very much on the curious temperament of Russian players in this era.

No. 16 Kevin Kuranyi (Dinamo Moscow, Germany)

Birthday: 32 years old (02-03-1982)
Position: Forward
Average Grade: 7.25
Goals: 8
Assists: 5
Games: 19
Price Tag: € 4 million

Bio:

Kuranyi’s story is that of a young footballer who came to Germany as a football immigrant from Brazil. Although Kuranyi is a former German national team player he is truly cosmopolitan. Kuranyi’s grandfather is Hungarian, while his mother was born in Panama. Kuranyi’s father was born in France but grew up in Germany before immigrating to South America. And Kuranyi himself was born in Brazil but grew up in Panama before moving to Stuttgart in 1997.

Kuranyi holds three passports (Germany, Panama, and Brazil). But it was his South American temperament that led to perhaps his biggest sporting disappointment, after being called-up, but not selected, to play for Germany in a World Cup qualifier against Russia in October 2008. On this occasion Kuranyi left the squad under mysterious circumstances. Shortly after the incident Germany’s manager Joachim Low announced that he would never select Kuranyi again with the public still unclear about what truly happened that evening. In any event, it deprived Germany of one of its most prolific goal scorers.

In eight Bundesliga seasons Kuranyi had always managed to score at least 10 goals in each, and it was therefore a surprise when the striker sealed a deal to move to Dinamo Moscow, where for a time he was the highest paid player in Russia. In Germany, however, the move was perceived as sporting exile.

At Dinamo, Kuranyi continued his goal scoring abilities, and has already 8 goals to his name this season. Furthermore, Kuranyi has also become the face of the new Dinamo era that is striving hard to reach the glories of their illustrious past.

No. 15 Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Nigeria)

Birthday: 22 years old (14-10-1992)
Position: Attacking Midfielder (Left, Right) Forward
Average Grade: 6.97
Goals: 10
Assists: 4
Games: 24
Price Tag: €12 million

Bio:

Ahmed Musa made the moveto Moscow in 2012, after impressing in the Dutch Eredivisie where he played for VVV Venlo. At that time Musa had a host of possibilities from suitors in Ukraine, Germany, and England, with Arsenal having been particularly interested. CSKA, however, were, at that time, quickly becoming a club that were attempting to invest in the best young prospects from around Europe with long-term visions to buy and develop, with such young players acting also as financial assets. Musa joined the likes of Doumbia, Tosic, and Honda to form a robust unit that challenged Zenit, managing to win a couple Russian Premier League titles. Musa is once again having a promising season, but CSKA’s failure to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League, or even the Europa League, together with the rouble crisis, may mean that Musa may be pawned sooner, and for less, to the West than was originally expected.

No. 14 Domenico Criscito (Zenit Saint Petersburg, Italy)

Birthday: 27 years old (30-12-1986)
Position: Defender (Center, Left), Midfielder (Left)
Average Grade: 7.49
Goals: 2
Assists: 1
Games: 20
Price Tag: €10 million

Bio:

Italians have played an important role in the history of Saint Petersburg, with much of the former capital designed by Italian architects, while the city is still referred to by some as the ‘Venice of the North’. Today it is once again an Italian who is making a mark in the city of the white nights, as Domenico Criscito is one of the creators of Zenit’s counter-attacking game from defence to offence. Criscito is versatile because he is a player who is comfortable playing in several positions in the back as well as in midfield. Like many wing backs Criscito began his career as a centre back and central midfielder, but was forced out to the wing due to his relatively small stature. Brought to Russia by former Italian coach Luciano Spalletti for €12 million, Criscito may be able to make a similar transition that Philipp Lahm made for Bayern under Guardiola, from left back to defensive midfielder with Villas-Boas prone to creative experimentation with his back three, albeit with mixed success.

No. 13 Artyom Dzyuba (Spartak Moscow, Russia)

Birthday: 26 years old (22-08-1988)
Position: Forward
Average Grade: 7.03
Goals: 7
Assists: 2
Games: 14
Price Tag: €6 million

Bio:

Artyom Dzyuba stated once in an interview that he wanted to play like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which was at the time ridiculed. For only a couple years ago Dzyuba was struggling at Spartak, even failing to impress at loan spells at Tom Tomsk in 2009 and 2010. Many had already given up on the abilities, who at 196 cm actually is slightly taller than the modest Swede. But a loan spell at FC Rostov in 2013/14, which saw Dzyuba score 17 goals in 28 games, appears to have changed the trajectory of his career for the better. It therefore seems that Dzyuba is a classic late bloomer, with his good form continuing since returning to Spartak Moscow. A better comparison however would be with Eintracht Frankfurt’s Alex Meier, who like Dzyuba is not the classic centre forward but rather a lanky yet technically-gifted player with an unlikely good first touch. While this particular comparison is not quite as glamorous for Dzyuba, reaching the level of a player like Alex Meier is a more obtainable goal, and not one without merit either: after all the German is currently leading the Bundesliga with 13 goals.

No. 12 Jose Salomon Rondon (Zenit St. Petersburg, Venezuela)

Birthday: 25 years old (16-09-1989)
Position: Forward
Average Grade: 6.86
Goals: 8
Assists: 2
Games: 22
Price Tag: €15 million

Bio:

Having arrived in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan from Malaga, where management and financial issues meant that Rondon’s abilities had to be traded in, Rondon’s apparent choice of club, snubbing the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham, raised many an eyebrow. However, with Russian-Venezuelan relations strong, thus visa problems eliminated, Russia fit appears was a more practical choice. Once in Russia, at Rubin Kazan, however, Rondon was once again on the move, this time trading oil for gas when he signed for Gazprom’s Zenit St. Petersburg in a deal that was worth €18 million in the winter of 2013/14.

No. 11 Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine)

Birthday: 25 years old (29-09-1989)
Position: Attacking Midfielder (Left)
Average Grade: 6.74
Goals: 4
Assists: 4
Games: 21
Price Tag: €16 million

Bio:

Konoplyanka was sitting on his packed luggage awaiting confirmation for his transfer to Liverpool FC in the winter of 2013/14. In the end the president of Dnipro Ihor Kolomoiskii refused to sign the contract, despite the fact that Konoplyanka appeared to have an release clause, which was activated. It now appears that Konoplyanka will leave Dnipropetrovsk on a free transfer next summer, making him one of the most valuable free agents in world football. But Dnipro’s recent fall in the Ukrainian Premier League standings, and a breakdown in contract talks could even see a move as early as this winter.

Regardless of what happens it would see the end of a transfer saga that involves Ukraine’s brightest prospect after after Dinamo Kiev’s Yarmolenko. In fact Konoplyanka’s biggest shortcoming is the fact that no one has ever seen the player on the biggest stage at club level. Players like Mkhitaryan have highlighted the fact that the step from Ukraine to Europe’s strongest leagues can be massive, with the lack of Champions League football making Konoplyanka too big a gamble for many clubs to take. Yet for those in the know there is very little doubt that Konoplyanka is not only ready for the next step but that at this point the step is long overdue.

All statistics, average grades and values for Futbolgrad’s 2014 Top 30 Players are from the 2014/15 season and are from kindly provided by whoscored.com and Transfermarkt.de –

By Manuel Veth and David McArdle

2014 Futbolgrad Top 30 Players (30-21)

2014 Futbolgrad Top 30 Players (30-21)

No. 30 Odil Ahmedov (FC Krasnodar, Uzbekistan)

Birthdate: 27 years old (25-11-1987)
Position: Midfielder (Center, Right)
Average Grade: 6.97
Goals: 2
Assists: 6
Games: 23
Price Tag: € 6 million

Bio:

Finishing in ‘last place’ is by no means any slight on the Uzbek Ahmedov, who is one of three FK Krasnodar players to appear on the FGT30. Ahmedov’s true strength is his versatility as he is equally adept at playing in central defence, centre midfield, and right midfield. Ahmedov was one of the few players who survived the fire sale of Anzhi Makhachkala last summer, but was able to move clubs on a free transfer due to the relegation of the Dagestani-based club. For Krasnodar this appears to be a steal as Ahmedov now has a market value of €6 million and can be considered one of the most interesting players of the Russian Premier League, whose shooting power resulted in the Uzbek winning the goal of the tournament against Qatar at the 2011 Asian Cup.

No. 29 Domagoj Vida (Dinamo Kiev, Croatia)

Birthday: 25 years old (29-04-1989)
Position: Defender (Center, Right)
Average Grade: 7.08
Goals: 2
Assists: 2
Games: 19
Price Tag: €5.5 million

Bio:

Domagoj Vida was a disappointment in the Bundesliga playing for Bayer Leverkusen. When Bayer purchased the player in 2010 from NK Osijeck for €2.4 million club officials had high hopes for the young Croat. Vida however was either not ready for the Bundesliga or was played in the wrong position. Either way, he left Bayer after only one season for €1.3 million to Dinamo Zagreb in what proved to be a poor piece of business by the Germans. One year later Vida was on the move again this time to Dinamo Kiev for €5 million, with the move seemingly beneficial for both parties involved. Since the transfer, Vida has been outstanding for Kiev and has played a valuable role on why Dinamo Kiev appear to be a serious contender for this season’s Ukrainian Premier League title.

No. 28 Alex Teixeira (Shakhtar Donetsk, Brazil)

Birthday: 24 years old (06-01-1990)
Position: Attacking Midfielder (Center, Right)
Average Grade: 7.22
Goals: 10
Assists: 2
Games: 21
Price Tag: €20 million

Bio:

One of the many Brazilians at Shakhtar Donetsk, and had the FGT30 been judged on only European performances, where he has scored 3 goals in 6 games, the Brazilian would have been ranked even higher. But unfortunately for Teixeira it has been his average performances domestically that has seen him surprise a few, sitting at the relatively low 28th place. At the age of 18 Alex Teixeira achieved his breakthrough at Vasco da Gama in Brazil, and quickly became a hot commodity, with his name was linked with several European top clubs including Chelsea and Manchester United. But an exit clause worth $39 million at Vasco da Gama meant that many clubs shied away from the investment. It was therefore a surprise when the Brazilian ended up moving to Shakhtar for the relative small sum of €6 million, where a favourable agreement between the clubs and Teixeira’s agent Kia Joorabchian helped smooth the deal. For Shakhtar, Teixiera’s signing was a club codified investment in the future, with club officials hoping that Teixeira’s performance both domestically and in the Champions League will continue to improve, with Shakhtar’s philosophy grounded on generating profit from eventually selling on their young South American talent.

No. 27 Artem Kravets (Dinamo Kiev, Ukraine)

Birthday: 25 years old (03-06-1988)
Position: Forward
Average Grade: 6.88
Goals: 11
Assists: 0
Games: 22
Price Tag: €2 million

Bio:

Is this the season for Artem Kravets? The striker who has scored nearly a goal every other game in the Ukrainian Premier League this year has seen a remarkable improvement since returning from a below average loan spell with city rivals Arsenal Kiev, where he only managed 3 goals in 10 games before the club went bankrupt. Kravets who made his debut for Ukraine in 2008, while still having failed to have broken into the first team at Dynamo, has perhaps realised that this is his final chance to make it at Ukraine’s most famous club.

No. 26 Eric Bicfalvi (Volyn Lutsk, Romania)

Birthday: 26 years old (05-02-1988)
Position: Offensive Midfielder
Average Grade: 7.35
Goals: 11
Assists: 3
Games: 16
Price Tag: €1.8 million

Bio:

The next Mkhitaryan? Perhaps not quite but the 26-year-old Romanian has been this season’s Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) sensation. Scoring 9 goals in 13 UPL games as an offensive midfielder is no easy at unfashionable Volyn Lutsk while his performances at Volyn have already earned him a call up to the Romanian national team. It is now only a matter of time when bigger clubs from Ukraine will try to lure him away from the its northwest.

No. 25 Olexandr Shovkovskyi (Dinamo Kiev, Ukraine)

Birthday: 39 years old (02-01-1975)
Position: Goalkeeper
Average Grade: 7.48
Games: 14
Clean Sheets: 10
Goals Against: 8
Price Tag: €500,000

Bio:

Shovkovskyi is a relic and Dinamo Kiev’s only survivor of the team that dazzled Europe in the spring of 1999, when they narrowly missed out on the UEFA Champions League final in a breath-taking two-legged affair against Bayern Munich. Shovkovskyi has guarded Dinamo’s goal since 1993, and has accumulated 392 games for the club. In many ways 2014 has been a difficult year off the field for the keeper who has been an outspoken supporter of the Euromaidan movement, and has even offered to pay plane tickets for foreigners who have suggested that the protests on Kiev’s Maidan Square were organised by fascists and Banderists. At the same time Shovkovskyi has also criticised the new government for taking away Russian language rights. Despite his political involvement, however, the keeper has been steady for Dinamo this season. Perhaps it is even unfair to suggest that Shovkovskyi is a relic, but rather a memorial of the days Dynamo Kyiv wish to replicate sooner rather than later.

No. 24 Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dinamo Kiev, Ukraine)

Birthday: 23 years old (02-05-1991)
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Average Grade: 7.06
Goals: 1
Assists: 3
Games: 20
Price Tag: €1.8 million

Bio:

Sydorchuk is the FGT30 dark horse, a defensive midfielder, whose strong performances have allowed Dinamo Kiev’s offensive players to develop a game that has brought the side who have recorded the highest number of league titles during the Soviet Union back to the top of the table before the winter break. Sydorchuk’s good form since the summer earned him his first call up for the Ukrainian national team, where he made his first full debut against Belarus on October 9, scoring his first goal in added time, before adding another three days later, this time the winner in a 1-0 victory over Macedonia in Lviv. In many ways the native of Zaporizhya has much in common with the last Ukrainian sheriff Anatoli Tymoshchuk. And while it is still too early to say whether or not Sydorchuk has the potential to develop his career in the same way as Tymoshchuk did, Dinamo Kiev have unearthed another young star, which will benefit both their return to the top of Ukrainian football and the ambitions of the Ukrainian national side.

No. 23 Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine)

Birthday: 30 years old (28-06-1984)
Position: Goalkeeper
Average Grade: 7.29
Games: 15
Clean Sheets: 8
Goals Against: 10
Price Tag: €6 million

Bio:

Pyatov is a player often better remembered for his calamities and inconsistencies for both Shakhtar and Ukraine, which have often overshadowed his positive abilities, in a vein similar to England’s former number one David James It appears, however, that Pyatov has now made the next step in his development to become not only a talented keeper, but also one who his teammates can consistently rely upon. Pyatov will never be a top European keeper, and still struggles at times to control his box. That said Pyatov’s form means that he is ranked as the number one keeper in the FGT30, and higher than Russia number one Akinfeev, whose torrid displays at the World Cup and in the Champions League have seen him not even make the cut. At only 30, Pyatov’s relative youth for a keeper may see him further progress as his composure and maturity continues to grow.

No. 22 Yevhen Khacheridi (Dinamo Kiev, Ukraine)

Birthday: 27 years old (28-07-1987)
Position: Defender (Center)
Average Grade: 8.42
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Games: 10
Price Tag: €9 million

Bio:

If Andoni Goikoetxea was the Bucher of Bilbao then Khacheridi is the Kiev Crippler. Khacheridi’s ruthlessness in defence can be both a blessing and a curse, with the Ukrainian defender not-so-fondly remembered for his needless tackle on Frank Ribery in the World Cup 2014 qualification play-off game against France, in Paris; a match which saw Ukraine concede a comfortable first-leg lead. Injuries have meant that Khacheridi has only played a few games since the summer, but the son of an ethnic Greek father and a Ukrainian mother, is a true presence when fit with the potential to play in any one of Western Europe’s top leagues.

No. 21 Yuri Gazinskiy (Krasnodar, Russia)

Birthday: 25 years old (20-07-1989)
Position: Defensive Midfielder (Center)
Average Grade: 7.12
Goals: 0
Assists: 1
Games: 23
Price Tag: €2.5 million

Bio:

Gazinskiy, like his teammate Joãozinho (who is ranked in 20th position of the FGT30), has benefitted from the rise of FK Krasnodar in recent years. Born in Khabarovsk Krai in eastern Russia Gazinskiy could be no more different than the Brazilian; but there is little doubt that Gazinskiy compliments Joãozinho as the defensive midfielder’s work rate liberates the Brazilian to roam without having to worry about any positional responsibilities. The Russian arrived in Krasnodar from the then First Division club Torpedo Moscow in 2013, with his new club finishing fifth last season, thus qualifying for the Europa League. Gazinskiy is an unsung hero, which is reflected in his relatively low market value, and the type of player who receives little praise in the media. But the growing awareness of this type of player, “post-watercarrier” moment, has risen sharply as coaches are now beginning to stress the need to strike a balance in the midfield; or in other words, for every Edin Hazard, there should be a Jon Obi Mikel.

Statistics and Average Grades kindly provided by whoscored.com and Transfermarkt.de
All player values via Transfermarkt.de

By Manuel Veth and David McArdle

Resurrection of Arsenal Kiev?

Resurrection of Arsenal Kiev?

After having gone bankrupt a year ago Arsenal Kiev appear to be making a comeback in Ukrainian professional football. As the club has stated on their official homepage, members of the board, including their sporting director Ruslan Ermolenko, participated in a meeting of the Football Federation of Ukraine on December 23.

The meeting included a seminar on the licencing requirements of Ukraine’s Second League (third division), and is a mandatory session for members of clubs who are interested in registering for Ukraine’s lowest professional league.

Arsenal president Alexei Kikireshko, a rally driver and businessman, who has led the phoenix club since bankruptcy, stated that the club have now won everything at the city level, where they have been playing since last winter, winning won both the Kiev city championship as well as the Kiev Cup.

This meeting is thus the first step in bringing Kiev’s second club back from the ashes and returning the club to Ukrainian professional football.

In the past the club have been victim of political intrigue and questionable ownership. However, since bankruptcy the club have worked hard to create a new image by changing both their logo and marketing strategy.

In addition, the club have maintained their youth football schools, and have made it part of their football philosophy to become the centre for youth development in Kiev. Now, Arsenal Kiev want to cement their now foundations by focusing on developing local players rather than buying from abroad.

Built from the grassroots level, with a robust youth policy, and without a trigger-happy oligarch, Arsenal Kiev could perhaps develop into Kiev’s alternative club, and represent a refreshing example in Ukrainian professional football that is now so heavily indentured to the political ambitious of whimsical oligarchs.

By Manuel Veth –

Russian clubs sign Rouble Crisis Memorandum

Russian clubs sign Rouble Crisis Memorandum

On Wednesday while most of the world was busy celebrating Christmas, Russian clubs were frantically trying to find a solution for the growing budget costs caused by the Russian rouble crisis.

In an effort to limit spending, and to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, all clubs of the Russian Premier League (RPL) signed an ambitious memorandum in which they proposed to set an artificial exchange rate for all player contracts that are being paid in hard currency.

Russian media outlet Sport Express claims that representatives of all clubs have reached an agreement with a proposal to establish a “corporate” exchange rate of $1 to 45 roubles and €1 to 55 roubles.

The President of the Russian Premier League Sergei Pradkin has called this a necessary step to preserve the financial integrity of the RPL, and has also appealed the the Russian players union to understand the gravity of the situation. He does not believe, as some have suggested, that this will cause a mass exodus of foreign players.

The general director of Kuban Krasnodar, Evgenii Murav’ev, however, has stated that it will be difficult for RPL clubs to renegotiate contracts as clubs are already legally bound to signed contracts and thinks that if a single player does not accept the memorandum the entire deal will collapse like a house of cards.

The head of the all-Russian players union Alexander Zotov has pointed out that the issue of lowering wages can only be resolved through bilateral negotiations and while the union may be willing to renegotiate on a case-to-case basis it is ultimately up to the individual players to accept a new deal.

The current development shows both the helplessness of Russian clubs to deal with the financial crisis but also how fragil the Russian football economy has become. Without television and attendance revenue clubs are dependent on financial benefectors from the state and/or the private sector, with both spheres having already taken a heavy financial hit since the collapse of the rouble.
While RPL clubs are hopeful that players will be willing to take a pay cut, it seems more likely that the upcoming transfer window will see an exodus of some star players from Russia, as clubs are struggling to find a solution which solves problems related to the financial crisis while also balancing their Financial Fair Play responsibilities.

By Manuel Veth -

Parma FC, the Secret Oligarch and Dastraso Holding Ltd

Parma FC, the Secret Oligarch and Dastraso Holding Ltd

Last week, Serie A strugglers Parma AC announced that they had been sold to Russian-Cypriot conglomerate Dastraso Holding Ltd, with rumours suggesting that Dagestan-born and current owner of Anzhi Makhachkala, Suleyman Kerimov is part of the Limassol-based group of investors.

Parma, having suffered 12 defeats in 14 matches, while awaiting a points deduction and fine for failure to pay taxes and wages, were sold according to Soccerex for a Christmas-bargain €7 million (US$8.6 million), and have consequently become only the third foreign-owned Serie A side (joining AS Roma and Juventus).

The story linking Kerimov to Parma by the Corriere dello Sport was sharply refuted on the official Anzhi Makhachkala website in early December, with a statement made by their CEO Sergey Korablev, who was adamant that “Suleyman Kerimov only owns one football club and that football club is Anzhi.”

While Parma have not unmasked the identities of their mystery foreign investors, interim club president Fabio Giordano confirmed that “the new buyers are reliable and well-known people” and that of the names linked to Parma in the national newspapers “a few are accurate”, which adds additional credibility to the Kerimov rumour.

Giordano went on to say that “the objective of the club is to stay in Serie A. The interest for Parma was motivated by it being a wonderful city in the North of Italy, the classier end of the football spectrum.”

Parma, however, should be cautious of Kerimov’s intentions should indeed he be revealed as one of their investors as his involvement in Anzhi was to spearhead a Kremlin-induced public relations mission in the North Caucasus before the Sochi Winter Olympics, an event Giordano would agree was more cash than class, with the Dagestan-based club relegated not long after the closing ceremony.

By David McArdle -