Manuel Veth –
When Uzbekistan host Saudi Arabia on Thursday, the match will include one of Europe’s most in-form strikers in Eldor Shomurodov. The 24-year-old Uzbek has been on fire for FC Rostov this season.
Signed from Bunyodkor Tashkent in the summer of 2017, the 190cm tall forward has scored ten goals and three assists in 16 Russian Premier Liga games. For Rostov, the signing of the striker has been the same as winning the jackpot. In some ways, the club managed to emulate the sort of success Newcastle United sponsored by FUN88 wanted to achieve last summer when they signed Hoffenheim striker Joelinton. The trendiness of casinos sponsoring clubs is raising and one of their main objectives is to try and raise the number of players they get on online blackjack, slots, poker and all the other games.
There are som parallels between the two, both were relative unknown before joining their European clubs and like Joelinton Shomurodov could soon be part of a big money move to a top club. After all, Rostov paid just €300,000 for the Eldor Shomurodov to Bunyodkor. With the forward in the lineup, this season the club has been the biggest surprise package in Russian football this season.
Despite two defeats against Zenit and Tambov, Rostov are currently third in the standings with 30 points from 16 games. With half the league season played already, there is a very good chance, the club will return to international football next season.
Eldor Shomurodov has benefited as well. The striker’s market value has increased from €1.5 million to €2.5 million in the latest transfer value update published on Transfermarkt. The striker has been in excellent form for most of this season and it is no surprise then that he was already linked to clubs in the big five leagues—Schalke was reportedly interested in August.
The jump from Russia to one of Europe’s top leagues, however, is a big. But Shomurodov has the numbers to suggest that he could succeed in a league like the Bundesliga.
First in the league in goalscoring together with Krylia Sovetov Samara striker Aleksandr Sobolev, Eldor Shomurodov has been deadly in front of the goal this season. Shomurodov’s ability to score in difficult situations is underlined by his 6.13 expected goals this season (as of Nov. 12), which ranks him sixth in the league.
One key to Shomurodov’s success has been accuracy. The striker leads the Russian Premier League with shots on target. This season 24-year-old has managed to get 51.16% of his shots on target. Efficiency in front of the goal has allowed the Uzbek to lead the league in scoring despite firing just 43 shots on goal in total this season, which ranks him seventh in the league.
There is a danger in that number, however. It means that Shomurodov has somewhat relied on less chances to keep his productivity up in front of the goal. In other words, Shomurodov’s productivity is high despite a small number of shots and a low xG.
Those numbers are favourably supplemented by striker’s aerial ability. No other forward has managed more headers on goal then the 190cm tall striker. With 19 headers this season, Shomurodov leads the league ahead of Artem Dzyuba (18) and Sardar Azmoun (15).
That ability to bring down a ball and create a dangerous opportunity inside the box is valuable. Hence, even if Eldor Shomurodov will have a hard time to replicate his goalscoring pace in other leagues, perhaps even this season in Russia, his frame and ability to create opportunities from high balls make him an interesting prospect.
The Uzbek striker is the sort of forward that could pair nicely with a more mobile attacking unite. Think Yussuf Poulsen at Leipzig or Wout Weghorst at Wolfsburg, for example. That ability could make him the perfect target man for a club like Schalke, where he could provide the perfect outlet in a dynamic attack that is lacking a true number 9.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others, contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds 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 is available HERE. Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently splits his time between Victoria, BC, and Munich, Germany. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.