20 Striker FC Baltika Kaliningrad (on loan from Dynamo Moscow) Russia
2014 has been...
Endemic of Russian football. A regular scorer at junior international level for a number of years, Andrei Vladimirovich Panyukov can operate as a main striker or provide ammo from the right wing. He’s two footed and able to play the number ten role, and this time last year, we looked and wondered if the stars were beginning to align for him. Regularly in the first team squad at Dynamo Moscow, Panyukov was picking up the odd minute here and there and scored his first Super League goal with a well-taken header to secure a point against Krasnodar in August 2013.
As the current leading scorer for the Russian Under-21 side, 20 year old Panyukov is an important marker – but not in the usual sense. You’ll be very well aware that we are due another one of those World Cups in four years time, and the next one will be held in Russia. You’ll also be aware that the likes of Pogba, Isco, Sterling, Berrardi and Depay are already being discussed as being amongst the ‘boys most likely’ in four years time, but how do things look for the future hosts?
To put it bluntly, if we were Russian, we’d be concerned.
We’ll not try to suggest that Panyukov is the most important player coming through for Russia, but he is one of a very, very small number of Russian youngsters that has impressed us and represents the next wave of kids coming along; although ‘wave’ may be slightly misleading. Looking at Fabio Capello’s current squad, there isn’t anything that suggests potential champions; in fact, based on the individuals available, group fodder is more appropriate.
Yes, Russia have some good players, but the likes of Shirokov, Kerzhakov and the CSKA pair Ignashevich and Berezutski will be too old by 2018. Beyond the impressive Aleksandr Kokorin, there really isn’t an awful lot to get excited about. Therefore, we really need to be considering the new generation, the current batch of nineteen and twenty year olds breaking through at the big clubs. However, there are few, if any, emerging anywhere right now.
The political landscape for Russia right now is more akin to the Cold War than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall and that is beginning to make an impression on her football. As a general rule of thumb, Russian footballers tend not to move abroad; the best can make plenty of cash at the oligarch fueled mega clubs alongside players from a host of nations. A cursory glance through a list of players under the age of 22 currently contracted to Super League clubs will highlight one worrying statistic; only a handful have made appearances that amount to a double figure score. Of those that have, the more prominent are from other nations. Contrast this with countries such as Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Argentina, even Italy and England and you’ll see where the problem lies. Eventually, that’s going to bite.
All of a sudden, Panyukov takes on a lot more significance than he should, and having got his foot in the door last year at Dynamo, we had hoped to be writing a glowing testimony now.
Loaned to second tier Spartak Nalchik earlier this year, Panyukov started regularly but was withdrawn frequently. Rarely looking up to the task, his season drifted into nothingness.
Conscious of getting their man more game time, Dynamo sent Panyukov off to the first division again, this time to FC Baltika Kaliningrad. Withdrawn at half time in both his first matches, Panyukov was clearly struggling. A series of substitute appearances – and a solitary goal – followed, but he picked up a knock in September and hasn’t been seen since.
For Russian football, the potential ‘nuclear option’ has already been suggested at the highest level. RFU general secretary Anatoly Vorobyov indicated that Russia's national team should play in the Super League for the entire 2017-18 season in order to prepare for the World Cup on home soil. You may scoff, but with very little on the horizon, it really isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
For Andrei Panyukov, things are a lot less complicated. His contract at Dynamo is up next June and there’s currently zero chance of that being renewed. With very little to show from this year, there’s unlikely to be a stampede for his services in the coming months.
Ok, we took a punt on Panyukov, things looked to be happening, but they most certainly won’t now. The bigger issue here though is the state of youth development in Russia and the opportunities available at the top clubs. If this is as good as it gets, don’t be too optimistic for 2018.
"Symptomatic of a wider issue. Whatever has worked in Germany, the opposite applies in Russia." - Jeff Livingstone
E We wish you the very best of luck in your chosen career
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