Aleksey Miranchuk 21 Midfielder Lokomotiv Moscow Russia
Messi-endorsed* Russian international Aleksey Miranchuk is fast becoming the one who got away for Spartak Moscow. He was released by them as a youth, apparently because of a lack of physical stature and strength, and moved into the system at Lokomotiv Moscow. There, he enjoyed success at youth levels before making his Russian Premier League debut in 2013, aged 17, and going on to win the Russian Cup in 2014/15.
(* in a manner of speaking)
2016 has been…
A year of continued, unspectacular progress. Miranchuk has been a regular selection in the matchday squad for a while now, but has increasingly been able to transform afternoons on the bench to frequent inclusion in the starting line-up for Lokomotiv. He racked up first team minutes through the second half of last season and 2016/17 has seen him secure his place.
He’s now an established starter who played 90 minutes in each of his team’s first 12 Premier League games this season, and he’s really beginning to show the creative dimension of his game, creating three goals in the early part of the season. It’s not without irony that he has on occasion been used as a centre-forward this autumn but has turned creator while the goals – temporarily, we’re sure – have dried up a little.
Miranchuk is highly versatile in the attacking positions and has been used as an attacking midfielder, on both wings and in central midfield since his debut for the club. He should be scoring more goals even with his relative lack of experience; he has the quality to make chances for himself and others, but he misses too many of them for our taste.
He sometimes struggles to consistently make an impact but he shows in bursts that he’s already able to be a catalyst for his side. He has marvellous balance and a good turn of pace, which he likes to use to run at speed from deep and just nick it past defenders, just eating up the ground on the way.
But he gets his head up to find a pass too, and the early indications are that Miranchuk’s decision-making is further advanced than many other top young players. He’s got vision, a deft left foot and a good passing range, and he seems able to play the game at his own pace when in possession.
In the games he’s played as a centre-forward this season, other aspects of his game have come to the fore. His work off the ball is instrumental in allowed his team to control games, and he never gives defenders a moment’s peace. Then, when he’s got the ball, he’s their driving force. When he’s in play, Lokomotiv go forwards. It’s that simple. He lifts the tempo for them, and his fluidity is going to serve him well.
Miranchuk made his debut for the Russian national side in May 2015, scoring as a substitute against Belarus. He added to his two caps last year by featuring in three friendlies in 2016, and his international task in 2017 is to break into contention firstly for regular call-ups, secondly for a start, and thirdly for playing time in Russia’s key preparation games as a home World Cup approaches.
But the key development next year is going to happen at club level. Miranchuk’s contract only runs as far as next summer, which puts the strongest hand in his, er, hand. He may not be attracting as much attention as other players in this list but his eminent gettability could be a factor.
C A big decision on the way
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