Zenit News: Rebuilding Starts!

The team was on a vacation through June 20. Then, after training in St.Petersburg for a few days, Zenit will head to Ukraine where it will play Shakhtar and Dynamo Kiev as part of a friendly tournament. The Shakhtar game is scheduled for tomorrow, June 27.

Zenit will start the 2013-14 season with a match for the Russian SuperCup: the Petersburgers will play CSKA on July 13 at a neutral venue in Rostov. The first league game will be at Krasnodar on July 17.

Transfer news: Zenit has signed young goalkeeper Yury Lodygin from Xanthi, Greece. The other two keepers at Zenit are the injury-prone veteran Malafeev and youngster Baburin. With Yuri Zhevnov going away, the decision to sign a promising young goalkeeper probably makes sense.

More transfer news: In the last couple of weeks Zenit also signed two former players, namely Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (34) and Andrey Arshavin (31). The former Zenit captain Tymoshchuk returns after four seasons with Bayern Munich; the defensive midfielder never became a regular starter at the German giants but was used regularly as a sub and collected a significant amount of silverware with Bayern. He re-joins Zenit as a free agent. The St.Petersburg legend Andrey Arshavin is the best player in the city’s history, he returns on a free transfer as well, after his contract with Arsenal expires on June 30.

I was about to start ranting that the club management apparently is leading Zenit into the past by signing aging former players who are clearly past their best years and facing downhill in their respective careers. However, a delightful news came in last week: defensive midfielder Igor Denisov signed for Anzhi on a deal worth some 13 million Euros. People familiar with the situation claim that Kerzhakov, Bystrov, and Anyukov will also be let go if there are clubs interested in their services. I’m calling this news “delightful” because Denisov is the person most responsible for destroying Zenit’s season 2012-13 and the club absolutely had to get rid of him to at least start fixing the team morale. Here’s what I was writing back in March:

…rebuilding the team would mean purging the “old guard mafia”, that is Denisov, Kerzhakov, Anyukov. The problem here is that they still are among the best Russian players at their respective playing positions, and it is not possible to replace them with foreigners because the Russian league has the limit on foreign players. The other option of course would be letting Spalletti go…and hire a new coach hoping he would be able to boost the team morale and help the players find motivation. In any case, I believe that this current team’s cycle has come to an end and significant changes are inevitable if the club is to move forward.

It’s nice to see that the club management finally ceased clinging to the old generation of local players and started the rebuilding process! In my view, wiping out the “mafia” and creating a healthy atmosphere in the team is crucial for Zenit to be successful in the near future. As for the replacement players, Zenit has also signed Russian U20 international midfielder Ivan Solovyov from Dynamo Moscow (free deal this one too). Youth team players Pavel Mogilevets (defensive midfielder) and Stepan Rebenko (central defender) are also expected to get some playing time now, I guess. I’d also like to see another young midfielder Sergei Petrov returned to Zenit from Krasnodar (Zenit has kept the preferential rights to buy him back when the club was selling him), we’ll see if that happens. It is not clear whether Zenit is going to make any big acquisitions (a star striker, possibly?) but we’ll see a very different team in the coming months. Expect an interesting new season.

Next Match: Thu June 27, 9:30pm Zenit – Shakhtar (in Kiev)

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