Coach backs Smolov’s EPL move

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

MOSCOW: Striker Fe­dor Smolov, is a ris­ing star in Rus­sian foot­ball with the po­ten­tial and am­bi­tion to play in a top league abroad such as the English Pre­mier League, and has the sup­port of his coach.

Smolov’s tap-in clinched a cru­cial 2-0 vic­tory in Satur­day’s Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup opener over New Zealand in front of a crowd of 50 000 in St Peters­burg, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, and he was de­clared man of the match.

“It is the first step to the English Pre­mier League now,” Rus­sia coach Stanislav Cherch­esov said af­ter­wards.

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter the match in flu­ent English, Smolov pre­sented a mod­est ex­pres­sion of hope for fur­ther suc­cess at the Con­fed Cup, which Rus­sia is host­ing af­ter a lack­lus­tre na­tional team per­for­mance at the Euro­pean cham­pi­onship last year.

“I hope that we make our sup­port­ers and fans happy, not only with the re­sult but with the per­for­mance as well,” Smolov said, with Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Por­tu­gal and Mex­ico their other group stage op­po­nents.

Charis­matic with good form both on the field and off, Smolov is some­what of a Rus­sian David Beck­ham.

The 27-year-old from Rus­sian Pre­mier League side Krasnodar was briefly mar­ried to model and TV star Vic­to­ria Lopy­reva, a for­mer Miss Rus­sia who has been pro­mot­ing next year’s World Cup. For two con­sec­u­tive sea­sons, Smolov has been the top scorer in the Rus­sian league. Smolov told Satur­day’s edition of Bri­tain’s The Guardian news­pa­per that he is ready for a new chal­lenge and look­ing to move to “one of the top four leagues” within the next few months. “Let’s be hon­est: the Euro­pean leagues are bet­ter and stronger, and if play­ers are play­ing on a higher level it means we are bet­ter pre­pared for the na­tional team,” Smolov told the news­pa­per. – dpa

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