Andrey Arshavin, who spent four-and-a-half years in London, is heading back to Russia. Source: Photoshot / Vostock Photo
Former Russian national team captain Andrei Arshavin is returning to St. Petersburg Zenit. The 32-year-old footballer, who has spent the last four-and-a-half years playing for the London team Arsenal, has signed a contract with Zenit for two seasons, with an option to extend for a third.
Arshavin’s return to St. Petersburg is bittersweet
In 2008, his name was on everyone’s lips. He led Zenit to a UEFA Cup and was one of the main architects of Russia’s third-place victory in the Euro 2008 championships.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger made a special trip to Switzerland to take a look at the Russian footballer and Arshavin told Zenit management that if they did not release him, he would quit the game.
On Feb. 21, 2009 Arshavin played his first home game for Arsenal against Sunderland. He won over Arsenal fans later that year by scoring all four goals in an away match against Liverpool.
But 2008 and 2009 remained the brightest years in Arshavin’s career: over the next two seasons, he fell out of shape and gradually shifted onto the substitutes’ bench.
Although Russian national team manager Dick Advocaat had more faith in the captain, the Russian team’s failure in Euro-2012 shook even Arshavin’s most ardent admirers.
Arshavin was never a great favorite among Russian fans. He was known for refusing to give interviews and making harsh statements when the press managed to corner him.
For example, after Russia’s disappointing performance in Euro-2012, he said: “The fact that we didn’t live up to your expectations isn’t our problem: it’s your problem.”
Although Zenit is taking Arshavin back, head coach Luciano Spalletii has made it known more than once that he is not completely onboard with the prodigal son’s return and is not promising him a first team place.
Additionally, the national team’s new manager Fabio Capello doesn’t see Arshavin as part of his plans. So at 32, the former star may need to reinvent himself to stay in the game.
Four Arshavin games to remember
1) 2003, Russian league, Saturn 1 Zenit 3
In 2003, Zenit had still not tasted gold in the Russian league, but the club was moving steadily towards it. It was Arshavin who brought the St Petersburg team its first title in modern history, scoring a hat-trick in this match.
2) 2008, UEFA Cup Final, Zenit 2 Glasgow Rangers 0
Winning the UEFA Cup was one of the most important moments in Arshavin’s career. It made Zenit only the second Russian club in history to win the second-most important European club tournament.
Zenit - Rangers UEFA CUP Final 2008. Source: YouTube
Although Arshavin didn’t personally score in this match, he was directly involved in both goals.
3) 2008, European Championship 2008, quarterfinal, Netherlands 1 Russia 3
Fans often rank this as the best match in the history of the Russian national team. Roman Pavlyuchenko opened the scoring with an accurate shot in the 56th minute.
The Russian team held the advantage throughout the game, but four minutes before the end the Dutch striker van Nistelrooy equalised, and it was all back to square one. But Russia won the match in extra time.
In the 112th minute Dmitry Torbinsky got on the end of Arshavin’s cross and squeezed the ball into the net – and was almost crushed by his madly celebrating team-mates.
Four minutes later Arshavin himself wrapped it up and made the match against the Dutchmen history.
4) 2009, English Premier League, Liverpool 4 Arsenal 4
The high point of Arshavin’s career in the UK and some would argue the best match in his whole career was the match against Liverpool at Anfield.
The match ended 4:4, with Arshavin scoring all four goals for Arsenal, each one more beautiful than the last. This was the first time in his career he’d achieved this feat, and moreover he was the first player to score four goals at Anfield for 63 years.
The game made him an idol for millions of Arsenal fans. Supporters from all over England travelled to London just to see him play.
Based on materials from Gazeta.ru.
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