Manuel Veth –
It has been a disappointing start for Spartak Moscow to the new season. The Russian champion managed just two points from the first two games, and despite winning the Super Cup, some fans are already getting restless. Perhaps the biggest problem with the club this season has been scoring, and it is, therefore, no surprise that Spartak have been linked with the likes of Max Kruse and Fedor Smolov.
While Max Kruse might be somewhat unattainable at the moment—the German still harbours hopes to play for Germany at the 2018 FIFA World Cup—Smolov could be available. Whether the 27-year-old striker fancies a move within Russia remains to be seen, however.
Fedor Smolov, in fact, was one of the most discussed Russian national team players at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. Rumours in and around the Sbornaya suggested that Smolov could leave his club FC Krasnodar and head to Western Europe. Once again it was Borussia Dortmund that were linked for the striker. Another club that seemed interested was Bayer Leverkusen.
Russia, however, played a disappointing tournament and Smolov, despite scoring an excellent goal against New Zealand on matchday 1, disappeared off the radar. The matter was also not helped by the fact that Borussia Dortmund announced that they would hang on to superstar Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which pretty much eliminated any need for them to look for another striker on the transfer market this summer.
Smolov’s European Options Have Gone Quiet
Bayer Leverkusen in the meantime lost Mexican striker Javier Hernandez, better known as Chicharito, to West Ham United. But with the club trying to rebuild using younger players and also weeding out its big squad for a season without European football, there is no real need for Bayer to bring in another striker.
That said there should always be a market for a striker of Fedor Smolov’s quality. No one outside of Germany has come in for the striker, which let to the strikers comments that Russian players have a poor reputation abroad. Smolov, of course, has a point. Russian players have indeed a reputation of struggling elsewhere. Furthermore, their high wages, and low taxes in Russia, mean that they are much more expensive to obtain than players from other countries.
It is a stigma that does not just affect Russian players, but players from the post-Soviet space in general. Smolov also suggested that his friend Yevhen Konoplyanka’s problems at Schalke were the result of stereotypes. At the same time, it is true that players from the region are difficult to price away and that they also prefer to move within the country rather than testing their skills abroad. Aleksandr Kokorin, for example, preferred Gazprom’s money at Zenit over a stint in the English Premier League with Arsenal.
What is without a doubt, however, is that Smolov needs to move clubs to truly show his talent on the highest level. One option would be to wait and see how the market develops in August. Clubs that are still in the playoffs of the UEFA Champions League could be interested in adding a striker off Smolov’s ability once they have secured their passage to the group stage.
Spartak Need a Top Striker Like Smolov
Another option would be to remain in Russia and to sign with a Champions League club. Here Smolov only has two choices. Number one join Zenit, who have already spent significant money on the transfer market this summer. The problem with joining Zenit, however, is that they already have Artem Dzyuba in the squad and Russia has never done well when the two played together up front.
As a result, Smolov would go from being the clear starter to Zenit where he would have to fight for his starting position. Smolov would certainly take that risk to move abroad, but it is unlikely that he would move to Russia and take the risk of playing second fiddle to another striker.
This leaves him with Spartak. Spartak, on the other hand, could certainly use a player like him. The first two games of the season, in fact, have highlighted that their current strike force might not be enough to challenge for both the title and do well in the Champions League. Recent transfers mean that Zenit are the favourites in the RFPL especially when you compare the best bookmakers on the planet with Wincomparator.
Luiz Adriano, Zé Luís and Lorenzo Melgarejo are all good strikers. But all three are inconsistent and have struggled with injuries. This means that a lot of weight rests on Dutch winger Quincy Promes. Promes is Spartak’s deadliest player, and it was mostly thanks to him that the Myaso won the title last year. But when he does not score Spartak are in trouble.
Hence, Spartak will likely bring in another striker, and Smolov is certainly on that list. Smolov, however, will want to sit out a potential move to Moscow as long as possible as he still wants to see whether there are better options in one of Europe’s top leagues. With August rapidly approaching and the transfer deadline just over a month away Spartak’s and Smolov’s situation will be an interesting storyline to follow.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.