Aleksandr Kokorin 22 Striker Dinamo Moscow Russia
2013 has been…
An exercise in drama. There’s been nary a quiet day in 2013 for Aleksandr Kokorin, one of the most exciting young players in the Russian Premier League. In May, he hit the headlines after a 1-0 loss for Dinamo Moscow against Alania Vladikavkaz. Kokorin’s vicious two-footed tackle on Danilo Neco got him sent off, and his bizarre decision to slap Giorgi Chanturia sparked a brawl that resulted in three more dismissals.
Chanturia was suspended for eight matches for spitting at Kokorin, Neco for four for his involvement in the melee. Kokorin, originally picked up a seven-match suspension, which was reduced on appeal to four. It is a measure of his penchant for the dramatic that this incident wasn’t the most noteworthy thing to happen to him around the end of last season.
After apologising to the Dinamo fans for his role as protagonist against Alania, Kokorin was on the move with ruble bills spilling out of his suitcase and a trophy-laden, star-studded future ahead of him at Anzhi Makhachkala. He transferred to the famously moneyed club at the end of June. In August, “restructuring” (more accurately, a fundamental demolition of the playing budget and a personnel fire-sale) destroyed Anzhi’s best laid, and expensive, plans.
Kokorin returned to Dinamo having never kicked a ball for Anzhi, an inverted Russian David Unsworth. After 13 goals in 27 games last season, his aborted switch has been a real bonus for Dinamo, who welcome back Russia’s new bad boy and have sent him out to score goals and, if it’s not too much trouble, try to stay on the pitch.
Effective in the air and able to make the run across defenders that makes a striker so deadly from crosses, Kokorin’s finishing is by far and away his best attribute. He moves well, times his runs cleverly and has pace to burn. Let him get a yard on you at your peril.
Like team-mate Andriy Voronin, Kokorin’s stayed in the goals and has remained clear of trouble, earning just one yellow card since that horrific incident last term.
But Dinamo’s position in mid-table might make his return to the club rather more short-lived than his first stay. Having already been subject to a €19m transfer fee (Anzhi triggered his release clause in the summer), even bigger money is likely to be spent on him in the future, and by bigger clubs too. Goals win games, after all, and Kokorin’s started to find them easy to come by. Regular Champions League football shouldn’t be out of his reach.
Having played for Russia Under-21s more than 15 times, Kokorin was promoted to the senior side as far back as November 2011, scoring his first international goal ten months later. Four goals in 18 caps is not a terrible return, but he could make a case for being more of a regular during that time.
Nevertheless, the World Cup is an opportunity for him to shine. He’s emerged as a starter for Fabio Capello, and club coach Dan Petrescu tipped him to be the catalyst for Russia at the World Cup finals as far back as the summer of this year. The Day of Kokorin has arrived, and Belgium, Algeria and South Korea had better have their wits about them.
"Currently, arguably, Russia's outstanding attacking talent, and certainly a man to watch with WC2014 on the horizon. Fabio Capello has mentioned him consistently as one of the first names on his Russia team sheets and so far Kokorin hasn't let him down." - James Appell, Russian Football Expert
"Aleksandr Kokorin has scored six goals and assisted another five in just 13 league appearances this season." - Opta
C+ Let the fireworks begin