Whatever happened to… Andrey Arshavin?
Blistering performances, and a transfer saga along the way, mean that Andrey Arshavin will always be remembered by football fans.
With the latest edition of the Euros almost here, it’s only natural to look back and reminisce at players who shone in past tournaments.
At Euro 2008 there is one name that instantly comes to mind – Andrey Arshavin.
The diminutive Russian forward was the undoubted star of the Zenit St Petersburg team that won the 2008 UEFA Cup – winning man of the match in the final against Rangers – but it was at the Euros where his star arguably shone brightest.
Despite being suspended for the first two group games, he immediately came to life by creating one goal, and scoring another, in Russia’s final group match against Sweden.
In the quarter-final against the Netherlands he starred again, setting up a goal and scoring his own four minutes later. He lists that 3-1 win as one of his three best performances ever.
Those heroics couldn’t be replicated in the semi-final against Spain as Russia lost 3-0, but clubs across Europe had really taken notice of the forward.
What followed was a transfer saga that rumbled on and on, with the likes of Barcelona and Tottenham sending in offers of their own for Arshavin.
But it was the link to Arsenal that remained consistent and after a whirlwind affair, which involved a certain Vladimir Putin at some stages, the Gunners eventually got their man in the January 2009 transfer window – but only just.
With just an hour left until the transfer deadline, Zenit finally accepted an offer from Arsenal – although it was still delayed thanks to a combination of compensation payments and a snowstorm.
The following day it was finally confirmed that the Russian had signed a long-term deal with the club.
In truth Arshavin didn’t hit the heights expected at Arsenal, but that doesn’t really sum up the whole story. To many he is and always will be a massive cult hero.
His first goal in an Arsenal shirt, against Blackburn, was simply glorious after he drove in from the left flank to score at a ridiculously narrow angle.
But in April that year came the game that Arshavin will always be remembered for in England, a thrilling 4-4 draw against Liverpool where he scored all four Arsenal goals.
In doing so he became just the sixth player in Premier League history to score four goals in an away match.
But that was the high point as Arshavin faded to a level of relative mediocrity in his subsequent seasons, as Arsenal did the same.
He watched stars like Adebayor, Fabregas, Nasri and van Persie depart the Emirates for pastures new while he was constantly played on the left, rather than in central positions.
Former goalkeeper Manuel Almunia also described in a Bleacher Report article that the Russian was often closed in the Arsenal dressing room.
In the end Arshavin re-joined Zenit in 2012 on loan before a permanent switch back to the club followed in June 2013. Overall, he had scored 31 goals in 144 appearances through his Arsenal career.
His permanent return to Zenit lasted just two seasons, although he did add the 2014-15 Russian Premier League title to his list of honours once again.
In July 2015 he then moved to fellow Russian side Kuban Krasnodar but his contract was ended by mutual consent in February 2016 after only nine appearances for the club.
Arshavin’s final three years as a professional footballer came, perhaps surprisingly, in Kazakhstan, where he played for Kairat after signing in March 2016.
It was also a very successful period for the former star, where he went on to win Kazakhstan Player of the Year in 2016 and also helped the club win the Kazakhstan Cup in 2017 and 2018.
Overall, he scored 31 goals in 108 appearances for the club before eventually announcing his retirement in December 2018.
Since then, he has performed ambassadorial roles and has given a number of interviews as well as once stating how he would one day love to become Zenit president.
Who knows what the future may hold for Arshavin, but on the pitch he certainly gave us some very special performances.
You can follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992
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