Rus­sia

World Soccer - - Contents - John Holmes­dale

Any hopes the Rus­sian Premier League had of se­cur­ing a World Cup div­i­dend were dashed by the sale by CSKA Moscow of mid­fielder Alek­sandr Golovin, one of the stars of the na­tional side’s sur­prise run to the World Cup quar­ter-fi­nals, to Monaco in a € 30mil­lion deal.

The most high-pro­file name to move into Rus­sia – just as ev­ery­one else was leav­ing af­ter the World Cup – was Ger­man de­fender Benedikt Howedes, who joined cham­pi­ons Loko­mo­tiv Moscow from Schalke af­ter an in­jury-hit sea­son on loan at Ju­ven­tus last year. And he was joined by Paris Saint-Ger­main mid­fielder Grze­gorz Krychowiak, on an­other sea­son-long loan af­ter his spell last sea­son at West Bromwich Al­bion.

CSKA also bade farewell to cen­tre­backs Sergei Ig­ne­she­vich and Vasili Berezut­ski, who both re­tired, but they did pick up Ice­land de­fender Hor­dur Mag­nus­son from Bris­tol City.

Krasnodar were one of the busier sides in the trans­fer mar­ket, sign­ing Peru­vian World Cup star Chris­tian

Cueva from Sao Paulo, as well as Ser­bian de­fender Uros Spa­jic from An­der­lecht and mid­fielder Dmitri Stot­skiy from newly pro­moted Ufa.

The lack of big-name ar­rivals in the coun­try was ac­com­pa­nied by con­cerns over the uncertain fu­ture fac­ing a num­ber of the World Cup sta­di­ums.

In the past, new World Cup are­nas have pro­vided a boost to the lo­cal do­mes­tic league, as in the case of Italy af­ter the 1990 World Cup and post-2006 Ger­many. But South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 of­fer salu­tary lessons that a fi­nals can leave a coun­try with plenty of white-ele­phant grounds, with small crowds un­able to pop­u­late the vast new com­plexes.

Only six of Rus­sia’s 12 World Cup venues will host Premier League football this sea­son: Kazan, Rostov, Saint Peters­burg, Moscow Spar­tak (now known again as Otkri­tie Arena), Sa­mara and Yeka­ter­in­burg. The lat­ter, home to Ural Yeka­ter­in­burg, is fac­ing prob­lems over the dis­man­tling of the grav­i­ty­de­fy­ing tem­po­rary stands that boosted crowds at the World Cup. They are sup­posed to be com­ing down but the lo­cal coun­cil has called for fi­nan­cial sup­port from cen­tral govern­ment to en­able that to hap­pen.

Alexan­der Feti­sov, deputy gov­er­nor of Sa­mara, told the Fi­nan­cial Times that cen­tral govern­ment help was still needed to fund the cost of re­con­struc­tion and running costs of Rb­s500m (£6m) a year.

Else­where, Vol­gograd (Ro­tor), Kalin­ingrad (Baltika Kalin­ingrad) and Saransk (Mor­dovia Saransk) will host sec­ond-tier clubs, while Nizhny Nov­gorod will be­come the home of an epony­mous third-tier club.

Down in Sochi, the coastal re­sort that was the scene of some of the most ex­cit­ing games at the World Cup, in­clud­ing the 3-3 draw be­tween Spain and Por­tu­gal, Dinamo Saint Peters­burg have re­lo­cated in a highly con­tro­ver­sial move or­ches­trated by Boris Roten­berg, a busi­ness­man and close ally of Vladimir Putin. Dinamo, the sec­ond team in Saint Peters­burg with crowds of just a few hun­dred, have been re­named FC Sochi, tak­ing the name of a club that briefly fea­tured in the third divi­sion a few sea­sons ago be­fore sink­ing back into the am­a­teur ranks. Whether their fu­ture is sus­tain­able re­mains to be seen.

Loko­mo­tiv will be the team to beat, with Por­tuguese striker Eder re­cruited on a per­ma­nent ba­sis from Lille. Their clos­est challenger could be Zenit, who have re­placed Roberto Mancini with Sergei Se­mak. They also wel­come back Artem Dzyuba af­ter his loan at Ar­se­nal Tula, where he forced his way into the World Cup squad.

How­ever, mem­o­ries of that tour­na­ment are al­ready fad­ing fast.

South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 of­fer salu­tary lessons that a World Cup can leave a coun­try with plenty of white-ele­phant grounds

Open­ing day...Ru­bin Kazan (in white) and Krasnodar

Sil­ver­ware...CSKA won the 2018 Rus­sian Su­per Cup

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