Putin’s own goal in Russian football

BarcelonaTwo months after adding their eighth league title, Zenit St. Petersburg will debut this Friday, at the Khimki field, the Russian Premier League 2022-23. What starts now, however, will not be just any season for Russian football clubs, which for several months have begun to suffer the first consequences of the war that Vladimir Putin keeps open in Ukraine. The indefinite veto on international competitions organized by FIFA and UEFA for the duration of the conflict, as well as the legal protection they have granted to foreign coaches and players to accept a letter of temporary release (extended until 30 June 2030), has led to an unprecedented flight of football talent from the country.

“The sanctions will cause irreparable damage to the Russian football industry,” protested the Russian Football Federation. The men’s team, host of the 2018 World Cup, will not be able to attend the Qatar event. Nor can the women participate in the European Championships in England. Clubs such as CSKA Moscow have already announced that they will file lawsuits against measures they consider “discriminatory and contrary to FIFA’s statutes.”

The possibility that many players could suspend their contracts for a year and leave for free to any other club has forced Russian teams to negotiate downward transfers or seek transfers to avoid missing a year free players for whom in many cases have been paid millionaire transfers. An example is Brazilian striker Yuri Alberto, who Zenit signed in January for 25 million and is now back on loan to his country for free. Some clubs in the Spanish league are also taking advantage of this situation. An example is Espanyol, which in January acquired a loan from Tonny Vilhena and now owns it in exchange for 2.5 million.

Krasnodar, his home club, paid 9 in 2019 and has now been forced to accept that Espanyol renegotiate more favorable payment terms for white-and-blue interest. Elche has also fished in Russia, from where it has incorporated the Argentine Ezequiel Ponce, from Spartak Moscow, for 4 million. Not all clubs, however, have had the option to negotiate: CSKA Moscow have seen Nigerian Chidera Ejuke take on FIFA leave and leave for a free year at Hertha in Berlin. More than a dozen players and five of the eight foreign coaches have done the same. The Russian championship has lost its appeal. The only foreigners who now dare to sign for Russian clubs come from South American championships, from Africa or from minor leagues in Europe.

According to data from the specialized portal Transfermarkt, the overall value of the players in the Russian league has devalued by 17% (from 894 million euros to 735) in a matter of five months. The championship has gone from having more than 170 foreigners to the current 98. Not being able to take part in European competitions remains a sporting attraction for a league that is being significantly affected by the political and economic isolation that Russia is experiencing. In the 2020-21 season alone, UEFA distributed 97 million euros to clubs in the country that took part in the Champions League and Europa League. More than 20 were taken away by a Zenith who, not being able to budget this income, is being forced to cut wages. The loss of purchasing power is noticeable in the market: the average expenditure per player has fallen by 61% in one year: of the 614,000 euros per player spent by Russian clubs in the 2021-22 season (205 million for 335 players) passed to the 237,000 (188 soccer players by 44 million) in which we take of market. The clubs not only spend less, but have lost bargaining power in the outings and are earning 37% less per player than they received last year: from an average of 383,000 euros last year to 239,000 today.

The money of foreign companies that have partially or completely withdrawn from this market, such as Nike, which has broken its contract with Spartak in Moscow, or Adidas, which has done the same with the national team, will not enter Russian football either. Russian football. Most clubs have as their main sponsors state-owned companies that, while they will keep their contracts signed for the time being, may end up seeing how international sanctions have repercussions in the form of scissors on investments in football. Putin’s war, a goal in own goal for Russian football.



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