Alan Dzagoev’s reputation continues to rise after another goal for Russia at this summer’s European Championships.
The 21-year-old attacking midfielder opened his account in Poland and Ukraine with a brace against the Czech Republic on Friday night, scoring his side’s first and third goals in an emphatic 4-1 win.
Four days later, and the youngster was at it again, heading home Andrei Arshavin’s free-kick to put his nation in-front against the Poles. Whilst Jakub Blaszczykowski’s stunner earned the co-hosts a 1-1 draw, the continent is abuzz about the tournament’s current Golden Boot leader.
But just who is Dzagoev, and where has he come from? Players rarely just burst onto the scene these days, with scouting networks in the Premier League some of the best in world football. If he was really special, then surely he’d have been picked up in England – or Spain, or Germany, or France, or Italy.
That’s the usual logic, but CSKA Moscow’s brightest star appears to have been missed after bursting onto the scene back in 2008.
It’s unlikely that the Beslan-born star will be passed up again, especially when you consider that his current contract expires in six months. Unsurprisingly, the Premier League big guns have been linked with a move.
Dzagoev signed for CSKA after two years with Krylia Sovetov-SOK, a second division side in his homeland. It was a step-up to the Russian Premier League, and he seized his opportunity with eight league goals and numerous assists for star striker Vagner Love.
Indeed, his debut season was heralded as one of the best in recent times in the top flight, and led to praise from several high-profile figures in the world of Russian football.
"I've followed him since his debut against Khimki. It seemed to me even then that Alan stands apart from other players because of his non-standard actions,” said former national team star Alexander Mostovoi.
“He is not afraid to get the ball, to dribble, to take responsibility. I always like players like that."
Academy coach Igor Rodkin added, back in 2008: "Dzagoev plays football not for fame and money, but because football is his life. It is rare today that a victory is more important for a player than the prize money for it, but with Alan, that is exactly the case.”
Perhaps that’s part of the reason we’ve not seen Dzagoev make a move away from Russia, with the youngster preferring life away from the spotlight of Europe’s other major leagues.
Spanish newspaper Marca once described the player as ‘the new Beckham’, but in-truth there aren’t many similarities. Dzagoev is quicker than the former Real Madrid star, and scores more goals from open play than the veteran Englishman. He does take set-pieces when given the opportunity, though.
Dzagoev possesses real pace, and his vision is undoubtedly a major asset. More often than not, he’s creating chances rather than scoring them, which would explain his lack of goals in recent seasons.
The player scored more goals in that debut 2008 season than any other during his time at the Arena Khimki, which could explain why the transfer talk has gone quiet in recent seasons.
That’s all about to change post-Euro 2012 however, as interest swells in a player now guaranteed to be one of the competition’s top scorers. His expiring contract also means that a projected transfer fee won’t swell to astronomical levels, as is often the case post-tournaments with top players.
For Dzagoev, talk of a big-money move is irrelevant, as he focuses solely on the task at hand for his country. Next up, it’s Greece, and a victory will secure top spot and qualification to the quarter-finals as winner of Group A.
“It is the team that counts," he said ahead of the game against Poland last night.
With the right attitude as well, it would seem to be only a matter of time before a big move comes Dzagoev's way.
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