The Russian game has never been widely noted for producing top-class performers at a consistent or reliable rate. In fact, whilst each of Lev Yashin and Rinat Dasayev certainly served to excel during their respective eras between the sticks for their proud nation, very few Russian outfielders have ultimately made the step beyond their own home turf and wholeheartedly thrived upon the European scene.
From the already largely forgotten likes of Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak, to the once highly-rated Alexei Smertin and the frustratingly erratic talent that was Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin – each player has seemingly come and gone without setting the world alight, despite the mounting potential supposedly waiting in the wings of the Russian Premier League.
But ever since making his international debut for Russia in October of 2008, as a fresh faced 18-year-old with all the wonders of the world presumably locked at his feet – there has been one distinct member of the Russian national team who has professedly flirted with the prospect of unprecedented footballing greatness.
In Alan Dzagoev, a quick-footed creative playmaker currently plying his trade for the notorious CSKA Moscow, Russia believed they had somehow chanced upon an up and coming young star in the making, one capable of capturing the attention of the wider footballing audience with his intelligent vision and undeniable flair. Yet in almost the exact same vein of those who came before him, Dzagoev’s reputation as a rip-roaring young sensation has all but faded into oblivion…
The now-27-year-old midfielder successfully rose to the forefront of our collective footballing consciousness with a string of impressive performances for Russia at Euro 2012. Although Dzagoev was already gaining a blossoming reputation for himself behind the veil of the Russian Premier League, the rest of Europe seemingly took notice of the young playmaker when his nation sought to prove themselves throughout Poland and Ukraine that one telling summer.
The reactive creative-midfielder displayed strong versatility whilst operating at the tournament. He could ply himself as either a dependable second-striker placed alongside the designated centre-forward in the team, or as a composed playmaker just behind his respective strike-force. In either position Dzagoev was brilliant – winning fans left, right and centre with his keen eye for a through-ball and thrilling tendency to attempt to find the back of the net from distance.
Whilst Russia ultimately failed to progress beyond the dreaded group-stages thanks to the efforts of their fellow Group A counterparts, Alan Dzagoev registered two well-taken goals against Poland and the Czech Republic respectively, supposedly announcing himself as the next great star to introduce his enthralling presence among the European game.
Unfortunately for the up and coming Russian international, such an inspiring eventuality ultimately failed to transpire when all was said and done – and in quite underwhelming fashion too, it must be said. Although Dzagoev proved capable of producing brief glimpses of sheer unrivalled genius on the odd occasion, his inability to showcase his natural talents at a consistent and effective enough rate seemingly cast immovable doubts and concerns above his overall skill-set.
The Euro 2012 favourite was once held up alongside some of the world’s very best players on the back of his undoubted potential and conceivable promise. In the eyes of some, Dzagoev represented something of a ‘Russian Lionel Messi’, due to his diminutive stature and impressive close-control all across the pitch.
Yet after witnessing his side crash out of Euro 2012 in truly disappointing circumstances, and subsequently being forced to play second-fiddle to Japan’s Keisuke Honda whilst operating for CSKA Moscow, the wheels of progress had all but derailed in the once promising career of young Alan Dzagoev. Today, he can still be found plying his trade among the Russian capital – where his dreams of setting the European game alight have been laid to waste and sadly pushed aside.
The reason for Alan Dzagoev’s unfortunate demise remains largely unclear and difficult to pinpoint. Like many emerging Russian stars who were supposedly capable of pushing their nation further and further upon the illustrious realms of the grand international stage, this is a player whose overall talent sadly failed to materialize in the eyes of most current football fans situated across the continent.
But at the still relatively hopeful age of just 27, perhaps all is not quite lost for this former Russian superstar. Alan Dzagoev may never find himself justifiably cast alongside Argentina’s mercurial Lionel Messi ever again – but as the current CSKA Moscow midfielder is yet to try his hand outside the seclusion of the modern Russian game, maybe there is still life in this once highly rated international playmaker.
With the rewarding prospect of gratifying international glory still locked firmly in his sights, maybe the best is yet to come for Russia’s rapidly fading No.10…