Connect in the back of the net


I wonder if Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko is starting to regret his crackdown on foreigners in the national championship at all. Less than two months after seeing a new 6+5 limit put in place, with only six non-Russian players being allowed on the pitch at one time, the whole existence of Russian football has come into disrepute.

FC Zenit Saint Petersburg Andre Villas Boas has come out and slammed the ruling lamenting it the end of football, and several world stars such as Jose Salomon Rondon and Mathieu Valbuena have taken their leave from Russia.

Indeed Mathieu Valbuena’s departure from Dynamo Moscow to Lyon back home in France has left Dynamo in deep crisis. The capital outfit have endured a summer from hell, with one knock coming after the other; first of all they were excluded from Europe as a result of UEFA’s financial fair-play, main sponsor VTB are said to have withdrawn significant funding, and along with Valbuena marquee striker Alexander Kokorin is said to be close to a Zenit move.


Reasons for Dynamo fans to cheer for

You could excuse Dynamo’s fans for feeling a bit down in the dumps, but they do have a few reasons to be cheerful. At this moment in time they are the only top Russian club to have high numbers of academy prospects in their main squad, and with so many young Russian players amongst their ranks they haven’t been overly affected by the new regulations.

Yes, Valbuena’s absence will leave a gaping hole, but they have a huge pool of young Russian talent to choose from. 18 year old striker Nikolay Obolsky has been getting more game time recently with Alexander Kokorin on the sidelines, pacy winger Alexey Ionov has been flourishing, and centre back Egor Danilkin has already played two sets of 90 minutes against Zenit and Mordovia. One man we haven’t mentioned though is midfielder Roman Zobnin, and he is maybe the most promising of the lot.

Having turned 21 at the turn of the year, this is already Roman’s second season as a first team mainstay. Last campaign he made five consecutive starts following ten substitute appearances, and there’s a reason why the Irkutsk native has been on such a steady rise.


A Potential Star of Russian Football

A box to box midfielder, Zobnin has shown that he could potentially become a true star of Russian football. His first goal for Dynamo came against Ural Yekaterinburg away, and with it being a beautifully struck effort from distance it really set the tone for what was going to come.

He was immediately handed a starting spot this term, and he has made the centre of Dynamo’s midfield his own. In the opening game of the new Russian season against Zenit he came to the fore, as despite Dynamo’s 2:1 defeat Zobnin very nearly netted a wonder goal having dribbled the whole way up the pitch. It’s not only Dynamo who he has been shining for either, as in March of this year he made his Russian national team bow in a 0:0 home draw to Kazakhstan.

With Dynamo out of Europe for at least another year though, it does mean that Zobnin is restricted to showing off his talents to a Russian only audience. While that may make it easier to cement his place with the national side, overall progression could be inhibited, and many would advise the midfielder to make a move to a top championship already if possible.

Rather surprisingly an article on has stated that even English side Manchester United are interested in bringing Roman to Great Britain, and if true it could spark the start of a seriously promising career.


Move to Old Trafford a tad farfetched

Yes, moving to Manchester United so early on in his career does seem a bit farfetched, but it certainly wouldn’t be undeserved. His steadily improving performances in Russia have been catching the eye of many, but there are plenty of risks if he did end up moving to Europe so early on.

Would have be given a starting slot? Almost definitely not. He would most likely be sent out on loan immediately, and moving down to the lower English divisions instead of continuing to play at the highest level is exactly what he doesn’t need.

When Manchester United come calling it’s pretty much impossible to say no, but in my own personal opinion Zobnin would be much better off spending at least one more year with Dynamo. Despite having no European football there are still chances to play against top clubs such as Zenit and CSKA Moscow, and such experience can only ease his progression along.

The talent and the promise are there, he simply has to carry a wise head on his young shoulders.



Written by Shaun Nicolaides

Follow Shaun on Twitter @zenitfan93

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