In the course of last season, Zenit showed other RPL clubs an example of perfect work in the winter transfer window. In January, three players joined the team, and each of them became one of the creators of the victory in the Russian championship. Yaroslav Rakitsky formed an excellent couple in the center of defense with Branislav Ivanovich and scored the most important free-kick goals. Wilmar Barrios immediately became an invaluable element of the central line and in each meeting he performed a huge amount of rough work, and Serdar Azmun completely turned into the main striking force of the team. In conjunction with Artyom Dziuba, the Iranian has blossomed again and currently has 16 goals in 21 matches for blue-white-blue.
Of course, such an increase would not have been possible without serious financial injections. So, Zenit spent a total of € 37 million on attracting this troika, which is a fabulous sum for almost all other RPL teams. But even this does not negate the fact that the breeding service of the club, led by sports director Javier Ribalta, worked perfectly.
Perhaps the only unsuccessful acquisition in the last year was Claudio Marchisio. The Italian joined the squad in September, but due to various health problems, he really didn’t manage to play for the blue-white-blue ones. In April, the midfielder was diagnosed with serious knee damage, which required surgical intervention and, as a result, a long recovery.
Of course, Zenit could not sit and wait for the age-related athlete to recover from his serious injuries, and decided to part with the ex-footballer of Juventus. On the whole, Marchisio’s invitation could be called a failure if it weren’t for the fact that he moved to the club from St. Petersburg as a free agent, and he was paid a minimum penalty for breaking the contract. Yes, this does not negate the costs for the player in the first year, but they are not so significant as to experience problems with the financial fair play.
Following a development strategy
Success in the last tournament allowed Zenit to win the long-awaited ticket to the Champions League, in which the team last participated in the 2015/16 season. Many expected that in the summer Petersburgers would make a “bulk purchase” before playing in the main club tournament in Europe, but this did not happen. The team of Sergei Semak continued to bend his line and again focused on strengthening specific positions.
The first thing the “Zenith” was concerned about attracting a left back, because in the past season the club experienced serious problems in this particular position. Even at his not too young age, Yuri Zhirkov looked great on the edge, managing both in attack and in defense, but injuries prevented him from playing from bell to bell. Elmir Nabiullin and Yevgeny Chernov, who replaced him, did not cope with their duties and soon left the club.
In this regard, the blue-white-blue acquired Douglas Santos from Hamburg. The transfer cost € 12 million, but from the first rounds it became clear that the Brazilian more than justifies the money spent on him. He is well connected to the attack and takes an active part in its development, and also strictly acts in defense. Of course, you can write down your own goal in the game with Krasnodar, but, as Semak himself said, it was only a “curious episode” that could happen to everyone.
Otherwise, Santos looks very impressive and now claims to be one of the best left defenders of the RPL. This is confirmed by the WhoScored portal, according to which the Brazilian takes the fourth place among the players of this role and is second only to Evgeny Harin (Akhmat), Soslan Takazov (Tambov) and Victor Alvarez (Arsenal).
The main transfer of this summer for Zenit and the entire RPL was the arrival of striker Barcelona of Malcom. Soccer players from top clubs in Europe do not often go to Russia, so this event immediately gained the status of a landmark. This contributed to the € 40 million, which St. Petersburg paid Catalans for the rights to the player.
At the moment, Malcolm managed to spend only 18 minutes in blue-white-blue, and therefore it is too early to draw conclusions. However, now we can safely say that in the future, the Brazilian can bring substantial funds to the club. So, in February he was only 22 years old, which indicates a large field for progress. If the winger successfully plays in Zenit and simultaneously holds a couple of successful seasons in the Champions League, then it can safely go on increasing for a much more serious amount than the € 40 million spent on it.
It is worth noting that this applies to almost all of the latest acquisitions of Zenit - Santos, Azmuna and Barrios. All three are young and in a couple of years may be in a strong European team with claims to high achievements. From this list only Rakitsky stands out, who was bought at a fairly mature age (29 years old) and in the future is unlikely to receive invitations from teams claiming great victories.
Search for the Russians
In addition, one cannot fail to mention the work of Zenit in the Russian direction. Next season, the RPL will introduce a limit of “8 + 17”, according to which the team’s application should contain much more domestic players, and four of them are pupils of their own academy. Petersburgers have already bought goalkeeper Alexander Vasyutin from the Norwegian Sarpsborg, and also stole Alexey Sutormin from Rubin.
As for the goalkeeper, his transfer solves two problems at once. Firstly, Vasyutyun is not only a Russian, but also a Zenit pupil, as a result of which he is able to bring the team closer to meeting the new limit. Secondly, his presence may be an additional motivation for Andrei Lunev, who has made too many mistakes lately. One gets the impression that this has already benefited him, because in the games with Orenburg and Krasnodar he acted quite reliably.
Sutormin has already managed to hold four meetings for Zenit, three of which he started from the first minutes. So far, he has not been able to clearly prove himself, and the arrival of Malcolm may well put an end to his prospects. Both act on the position of the right winger, but it’s hard to imagine that Semak would give preference to the ex-footballer of Orenburg rather than Barcelona.
Thus, in the near future, Alexei risks sitting on the bench, or even going on a lease. In light of recent events, no one will be surprised at his possible departure to Sochi, where a whole group of former Zenit representatives has already gathered.
Only the limit on legionnaires, according to which no more than six foreigners can be on the field at the same time, can save him. Now Rakitsky, Ivanovich, Santos, Barrios, Dryussi and Azmun are steadily coming out at the start, therefore, the appearance of Malcom will invariably entail the transfer of one of them to the reserve. At the moment, replacing the Argentinean looks the most logical. In this case, the Brazilian will take a favorite place on the right, and Sutormin may be on the left.
"Cleaning" the composition
After Sergey Semak came to the coaching bridge, the club began to actively get rid of players acquired during the work of Roberto Mancini and Mircea Lucescu. So, during the past season, Evgeny Chernov and Arthur Yusupov were disconnected, and this summer a number of football players went to the Sochi debutant camp, as well as to Rostov and Ural. Anton Zabolotny also left the team with a great creak. The author of the Golden Pass did not want to voluntarily go on rent on the Black Sea coast, but changed his mind.
However, if all summer sales brought Zenit a total of less than € 10 million, in winter the team showed how you can make money on their players. In the summer of 2017, he acquired Leandro Paredes from Roma for € 23 million, and in the winter of 2019 he gave it to Paris Saint-Germain for € 40 million. Thus, the transfer of the Argentinean became the second most profitable in the history of the Russian Prime Minister. League (RPL). Only the Hulk (€ 55 million) parted more expensively when he left for the Chinese Shanghai SIPG.
It is worth noting that at the moment, “Zenith” has not yet been able to complete the cleaning of the team and in the near future the leaders have a lot of work. At the moment, the team has 14 legionnaires, which significantly exceeds the permissible limit for the next season. Thus, soon the club will have to part with at least six players, one of which is likely to be Hernani. The Brazilian was acquired during the Lucescu era, but recently more and more wanders around on leases.
Also, a very precarious situation with Luke Djordjevic, Robert Mack, Emiliano Rigoni, Matias Kranevitter and Micah Mevli. The first over the past six years goes on rental and is not part of Semak's plans, and the rest for various reasons have not justified the trust of the coach. At the same time, the last trio is probably the most disappointing for the bosses of the “Zenith”. A total of € 25 million was spent on their transfers, but now the club is unlikely to be able to return at least half of these funds.