After watching Chelsea deconstruct Spartak Moscow last Wednesday night it wasn’t the obvious conclusion to draw that Russian football is on the up. However, I was impressed, in the first half at least, by the technical ability of the Russian side and their willingness to attack Chelsea. And they did so with a certain measure of promise.
This sparked a thought: the rise of Russia as one of the biggest leagues in Europe. Could they challenge the Premiership, La Liga and Serie A to become one of the best nations for club football? Currently (UEFA) ranked as the sixth strongest league in Europe, in a second tier completed by Germany and France, the Russian Football Championship has in my opinion something big to offer.
The Premiership has been built on bags of money, La Liga is renowned for its development of technical players, and Serie A is/was lauded for its tactical awareness. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of money in Russian football – any country that can afford to give Gary O’Connor a £1m bonus for scoring in a cup final can’t be short of a few bob. Given they have the cash, academies and coach training schemes could be heavily invested in as well.
However, if they are to compete as a footballing superpower I believe they have to offer a slightly different product. The Premiership gives us expensive fast paced football, La Liga gives us skill and precision passing and Serie A gives us match fixing (even the refs are tacticians). What could be Russia’s selling point?
Home grown talent. Yes, La Liga is pretty good at that too but its main attraction lies at the feet of Messi and Ronaldo for the moment. With intelligent investment, the like of which I wish Britain would make, the sizable youth of Russia could be mobilised to propel Russia into the footballing stratosphere. They may not be the first to land on Murdoch’s moon but with a few lucrative and ambitious signings (and let’s face it, the modern footballer has struggled to resist the lure of money) I truly believe Russia could challenge the ‘big 3’ for space in your TV times.
Maybe I’m just slightly bored by the offerings of the English Premiership or so depressed by the SPL that I have concocted a Russian fantasy, but I know that I would like it if someone could break the mould. Russia, has an unknown quality about it, capable of springing a surprise and European football could do with a kick up the arse. Wouldn’t it be great if Andrei Arshavin wasn’t a one off and Aiden McGeady actually had a chance of joining Scott Booth on the list of famous Intercontinental Cup Winners. The Russian revolution is brewing, you heard it here first, “Peace, Land and Football!”