The Rise And Fall Of Aleksandr Kokorin

Aleksandr Kokorin
Neil Salata/RFN

At a young age, Aleksandr Kokorin’s stepfather introduced him to both football and boxing. Kokorin did both for a while, before choosing to focus on football. He was good at football but aged 27 he made the puzzling decision to rediscover martial arts – getting caught on video whacking a government official with a chair and helping to land a chauffeur in hospital. Following an excellent season, he finds himself in jail and ongoing trial. The key to further unlocking his talent may now be lost forever.

Straight Outta Valuyki

Aleksandr Kokorin was born as Aleksandr Kartashov, in a small, rural Russian town called Valuyki. Former neighbours, school teachers, early coaches, and schoolmates remember Aleksandr as a happy, well-liked, and hardworking kid.

Everyone knows me in Valuyki – Aleksandr Kokorin

Kokorin was also naturally gifted when it came to sport. His stepfather: Kirill Loginov, introduced Kokorin to football and boxing from a young age (and would later be his agent).

…It seems to me that if he had gone to do any other sport, he would also have succeeded, thanks to his natural talent and passion. But his stepfather was very fond of football (…) And that played its role – Olga Beschastnaya, Kokorin’s former P.E. teacher

Kokorin focused on football, and after a year of football training in Valuyki, it became obvious, according to his first coach, that Kokorin was talented. His coach also happened to scout players for Spartak Moscow, and so he put Kokorin forward for a trial.

It turned into an interesting story: Kokorin travelled 700km to Moscow for this trial, only to be informed he had to buy a Spartak top to take part. His stepfather rushed to buy him one but it was shamefully oversized.

I put on the top, looking like a Filipok. Everything became clear. I packed my suitcase to leave. You travel 700km to Moscow, and they have that attitude – Aleksandr Kokorin

The experience left a bad taste in Kokorin’s mouth and Kokorin next went on trial with Lokomotiv Moscow. By chance, it would involve a game against Spartak, and in that game, Kokorin scored two goals for Lokomotiv to win confidently.

At halftime during the game with Spartak, the coach who did not take me came up to me. I won’t name him. He started to ask me where I’m living, how am I. And (he said) with such surprise: we wanted to keep you (at Spartak), and you just disappeared – Aleksandr Kokorin

It was thus to the presumed regret of Spartak, that Kokorin agreed with his stepfather to join Lokomotiv Moscow’s academy on a scholarship.

(The club I would never play for) that would probably be Spartak – Aleksandr Kokorin

At Lokomotiv, coaches sang Kokorin’s praises.

He immediately stood out among the others. He could do such things! We talked with the other coaches – everyone saw that he was very talented! He alone could beat the whole team, lob the goalkeeper. Such moments were quite common. It was clear that this was a great talent. Two more important things – motivation and nerves of steel. Sometimes it happens that a person fails something and he stops. Sasha didn’t have that! – Valery Staferov, one of Kokorin’s coaches at Lokomotiv

However, despite his talent, Kokorin still had to contend with living alone from home, the death of his first Lokomotiv coach in a traffic accident, and a serious knee injury.

I became independent, at around the age of ten, when I was left alone in Moscow at the Lokomotiv boarding school. The first two years were very hard. My parents came only once every three months. Then I got used to it (…) The Scholarship was only enough to go to McDonald’s once and that’s it … Everyday training. The only thing that saved me was having friends around – Aleksandr Kokorin

On the whole, the period with Lokomotiv was positive, but Kokorin eventually fell out with the club’s new management and president Nikolai Naumov. He ended up ditching Lokomotiv and signing his first professional contract with Dinamo Moscow.

Dinamo had offered Kokorin better financial terms (thousands of dollars instead of thousands of roubles), assurances of first-team football (at Lokomotiv he had not yet even made the reserves), and had even helped him out with treating his knee injury.

The contract had nothing to do with it (decision to leave Lokomotiv). It was all to do with the new club management. These people did not know who I was, or what I was about, and they had a bad attitude towards me – Aleksandr Kokorin

Kokorin’s decision to leave Lokomotiv was therefore possibly his earliest scandal, with many to follow.

Thank The Police

Looking back, it is ironic that Kokorin started his professional career at Dinamo: the club otherwise known as the police club. Kokorin can thank Dinamo for helping to kickstart his career at a young age.

In his first game with the police, Kokorin became the youngest goalscorer in the league that season. In his next game, he scored again, and after that he remained in the team until the end of the 2008 season, helping Dinamo to a third-place finish.

Kokorin’s debut goal was excellent

He came to Dinamo very young. He was 16. He was always focused on his training and work – Dmitry Ivanov, former president of Dinamo Moscow

Kokorin worked hard but faced stiff competition as a young striker, first with the likes of Aleksandr Kerzhakov, then Kevin Kuranyi and Andriy Voronin. He was often forced to play out of position.

Sasha’s misfortune is that he is a universal player, and this, of course, is unreservedly used by coaches, covering up the weak spots in their teams – Dmitry Ivanov

He scored few goals in 2009 and went scoreless in 2010. To the frustration of Kokorin, Dinamo manager Miodrag Bozovic preferred experience over youth.

Sasha… is a good lad. But at that time he was only 19 (…) He needed to work hard and then later not get offended at me. I gave him chances, he went out onto the pitch, although I admit not in his position, more often on the left or on the right, that was the necessity. It was clear that Kokorin is a talented player… but Sasha wanted everything and now, like many young footballers today – Miodrag Bozovic

Despite not being prolific, Kokorin was young and considered very talented, he also possessed a good goalscoring record at the youth level for Russia. The likes of CSKA Moscow and Spartak reportedly wanted to snatch him away during his frustration.

Kokorin Dinamo Moscow
Neil Salata/RFN

Things improved when Kokorin decided to stay at the club while Bozovic departed. Kokorin played regularly during the 2011-2012 season and won an award recognising him as the best young player in Russia. The following season, Dinamo manager Dan Petrescu consistently played Kokorin as a striker.

During the 2012/13 season, Kokorin scored thirteen goals in twenty-six appearances and gave ten assists. It was an undeniable breakthrough; scoring important goals in the Europa League and contending for the title of top-goalscorer in the Russian Premier Liga.

Kokorin had proven his status at Dinamo, and as one of the league’s hottest talents, but he wouldn’t stick to earlier words about loyalty.

More Money, More Problems?

Kokorin was initially being linked with a move to Zenit St. Petersburg during the winter of 2012. Reportedly an offer was declined and Kokorin didn’t seem that interested in the move away from Dinamo. Instead, he signed a new contract with a €19 million release clause.

I can call myself a Dinamo patriot. After all, I have already been in the team for five years. At the moment I don’t see myself at a different Russian club – Aleksandr Kokorin

I’ve always said, I do not want to play for other Russian teams. We can talk of foreign clubs down the line, but not right now, because of that I had no doubts when I got the (contract) offer from Dinamo – Aleksandr Kokorin

Over the course of the year things changed, however, despite his good season, Dinamo finished seventh and missed out on European competition altogether. Some of Kokorin’s frustration may even have shown on the pitch (see below) in the penultimate game of the season.

At the end of the season, another Russian club besides Zenit expressed interest and willingness to pay Kokorin’s release clause. Kokorin decided it was the right time to move on.

Kokorin Anzhi Makhachkala
Neil Salata/RFN

He left Dinamo to join Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013 and teamed up with his former Dinamo buddy Fedor Smolov, as well as a bunch of star players, and renowned coach Guus Hiddink. The 22-year old’s wage shot up to €4 Million per year and he was briefly viewed as a traitor by the Dinamo fans.

“Briefly”, because due to an injury and the turmoil in Makhachkala he found himself returning to Dinamo for the same fee within two months, not having played a single game for Anzhi.

By that point, Dinamo had changed as well. They’d bought several other players from Anzhi, and in many ways resembled the same club which Kokorin did not have an opportunity to play for.

I don’t want to discuss my scandalous transfer. I did not return just for the sake of it. There are new people, new objectives. We will move in this direction – Aleksandr Kokorin

Kokorin earned €5 Million per year at Dinamo after his brief spell in Makhachkala (or according to some sources: €5.5 Million), making him the third highest paid player in the league – behind Kuranyi’s €5.7 Million, and Hulk’s €7 Million.

I see that players of a certain level receive a corresponding amount of money. And I understand that I have to earn as much. Salary, in this case, is a confirmation of somebody’s status, right? When you are playing for the national team, you are scoring for the club… – Aleksandr Kokorin

Suddenly all within the space of a couple of months he became the highest paid Russian footballer in the run-up to the World Cup. Within Russia, Kokorin admitted to associating his wages with status. In his eyes, his status was therefore very high. But was it premature and dangerous to have such a high self-estimation when he wasn’t yet a leader for Russia?

Missed Opportunities

Kokorin made his senior debut for Russia in the 4-1 victory over Czechia at the Euro 2012.

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Часть 2)

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By coincidence, it pretty much went downhill for the Sbornaya from there on in, until their redemption in 2018. Kokorin was touted as a possible replacement for Andrey Arshavin, but the then-upcoming striker, like the others, struggled to do so.

Pay attention to Kokorin – Fabio Capello speaking to Italian journalists

At the 2014 World Cup, Kokorin scored a great header for Russia, to briefly sparkle in a vital game against Algeria, but it was not enough to save Russia or earn Kokorin the move abroad which he may have wanted.

Capello’s strict tactical instructions forced Kokorin to play out of position much of the time, arguably stifling his progress as a player.

(…) It was clear that Aleksandr clearly carried out the instructions of his manager (Capello): not a step to the left nor a step to the right. But a forward needs to be given the opportunity to be a free artist, then he can bravely take the game on. If a forward plays according to the template, nothing happens – Ivan Kaverin, Kokorin’s coach in Valuyki

Following their exit from that World Cup, Kokorin was the only Russian player to speak to journalists, but he became best known for an Instagram photo of him leaving the tournament in a private jet and eating seeds. It was not well-received, nor were the seedy photos of him with a couple of topless strippers in a sauna a few months later.

While Kokorin’s off-the-pitch antics cast some doubts on his mentality, it was not seen as a major problem while his club performances were steady.

It was just PR ?? ?? – Aleksandr Kokorin (on sauna incident)

By 2015, after a couple of very solid seasons with Dinamo and with his contract soon expiring, he was reportedly interesting large clubs such as Spartak (always optimistic), Zenit (always lurking), Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris St Germain, and Arsenal. Dinamo’s fortunes meanwhile began to fade, much in the same way as Anzhi. It was time for Kokorin to move on again.

READ MORE: Dinamo Moscow: A history of incompetence

In my opinion, he needs to go to Europe and play there. And if he doesn’t go it will be a big mistake. Kokorin can play for any European club. With his quality, he can play for Barcelona. I do not mean with the way he is playing, but more his attributes – his acceleration, his shooting with either foot or his head, his dribbling – Miodrag Bozovic

When it came to it, Kokorin apparently failed to convince the top European clubs enough. A genuine move to Arsenal remained on the cards but ultimately Kokorin himself did not want to take on the risks attached.

Yes I could have played for Arsenal. I didn’t have enough time. My contract was running out with Dinamo, but Arsenal wanted to take me on loan for a year with the option of a future buy-out. But to go on loan to Arsenal, I’d have had to have renewed my contract with Dinamo, which I didn’t want to do at that time – Aleksandr Kokorin

Kokorin succumbed to Zenit, going for a bargain price of €2 Million, with Dinamo later relegated. He also took a pay cut to €3.3 Million per year, following the enactment of Financial Fair Play.

Regarded as Russian talent but not an international star, Kokorin had to prove himself further, and he would not be an immediate leader at Zenit.

Fading Hopes

I did not understand, it was as if Cristiano Ronaldo had joined the team. But this was just Kokorin – Oleg Shatov

Kokorin started playing for Zenit mostly as a substitute. Despite high expectations, he did not make an impressive start, although in his first season he did help Zenit to win the Russian Cup final – scoring an important goal and earning a penalty.

His second season had a particularly poor start after being sent to the reserves following a pre-season scandal with Pavel Mamaev in Monaco. A video captured the two footballers allegedly ordering champagne costing hundreds of thousands of Euros with the Russian national anthem playing in the background shortly after Russia’s elimination from Euro 2016.

Mircea Lucescu as Zenit’s manager put a lot of faith in Kokorin, but while Kokorin played a part in helping Zenit to win the Russian Supercup, and finish third in the league for the second year running – ultimately he failed to provide the goals which Lucescu desperately needed.

READ MORE: Lucescu – Failure Or Scapegoat?

I really love Kokorin! Zenit needs Kokorin very much! I adored this footballer… He is a player with incredible physical qualities. He only needs to sort out his head… In my second year at Zenit, I’d have made Kokorin the best footballer in Russia. Everyone was against Kokorin – how many attacks he withstood… He has everything! Only he has small problems with his concentration! He is like a child – always laughing. Such relaxation… but life is a serious thing – Mircea Lucescu

Managers knew Kokorin was talented and capable but they did not always know how best to use him on the pitch and it seemed that Kokorin himself did not fully utilize the entirely of his talent.

He always showed a high level during training. That is not his greatest trait: to look a lot brighter during training than in competitions. Perhaps it is psychological, maybe it is something else, but he finds the training very easy, and he works wonders – Dmitry Ivanov

His consistency and goalscoring record for Zenit and Russia were poor. He struggled to play at his best and others consistently occupied his preferred position as striker.

Kokorin Zenit
Neil Salata/RFN

Maybe Kokorin felt he had already achieved everything before heading to Zenit…

A fall in his motivation. It’s visible. In Dinamo, even after my departure he was a leading player, scored decisive goals, brought the team points. Now we have forgotten the last time he had a goal streak. A big club, a big contract. He probably thinks he has already achieved everything – Sergei Silkin, Dinamo Moscow manager from April 2011 – August 2012

To the public that’s what it looked like: that he was happy to just coast along with the diminishing fortunes of Russian football while taking everyone for a ride. People could no longer tell when he was joking or serious when he was trying or not.

But in terms of material possessions, cars and such, I am calm. I don’t think that these are the main things in life – Aleksandr Kokorin

Kokorin Scandal
Neil Salata/RFN

For Kokorin, hopes were fading, he’d cried wolf a few too many times, and he was no longer young by European standards. He’d won trophies but both Zenit and the Sbornaya kept failing to meet expectations, others had shone brighter in the circumstances.

It looks like this is the limit for Kokorin. You won’t change his mentality. He is no longer 18 or 20 years old. Kokorin was often viewed as capable and in the end, he remains capable – Gennadiy Orlov

A Different Person?

Zenit maintained faith in Kokorin for 2017-2018 – albeit only after they failed to swap either him or Dzyuba for Russia’s new star: Smolov.

Smolov Dzyuba Kokorin goals per 90 minutes comparison

When they couldn’t get in on Smolov’s brilliant form, they renewed attempting to unearth Kokorin’s hidden potential…

Kokorin was made captain during a preseason game. The new club president, Sergey Fursenko, claimed to be a very big fan of Kokorin and new sporting director Konstantin Sarsania previously worked with Kokorin before at Dinamo.

This is not an experiment (Kokorin as captain). I rate Kokorin very highly, he is a very talented player. All these problems, outside of football, they need to be just put to the side, but I think he can become the best player in Russia – Sergey Fursenko

If he realises everything that he has, he will become not only the best footballer in Russia, he will become the best footballer in Europe – Sergey Fursenko

Unlike Dzyuba and others, Kokorin fitted in with the management style of Roberto Mancini. With the likes of Hulk, Danny, and Kerzhakov long gone, Mancini further rid himself of the services of Giuliano, Shatov, and Dzyuba. It was a good opportunity for Kokorin, but few expected that he would take it.

Kokorin Russia
Neil Salata/RFN

Kokorin took it and smashed it – he scored a record number of goals for himself, and his performances in Europe stood out. He continued to captain Zenit at times, but more importantly, he looked to have become captain of himself.

READ MORE: Aleksandr Kokorin’s Reformed Character

On the whole, Kokorin – is a footballer of the highest level. He has the makings of a champion. He could play and be the best in any strong European club – Roberto Mancini

He returned to the Sbornaya after missing the 2017 Confederations Cup and failing to impress Stanislav Cherchesov previously, nor having helped his cause by appearing to mock Cherchesov’s moustache in a silly video with Dzyuba.

In their youth, they (Smolov and Kokorin) were very talented players. But at the time they could not put football in the first place, because of which they were not always able to show their best qualities. After growing up, the lads have changed – Miodrag Bozovic

Maybe Kokorin’s change came about therefore because the World Cup had been fast approaching and he could see the progress from his friends/rivals Smolov and Dzyuba, or possibly it was because he’d become a father. Perhaps it was the support from the new club management and the focus now being firmly on him to lead Zenit’s attack. Most likely it was a combination of all these things giving him impetus.

Kokorin Goals + Assists

He is now a different person, more serious, he jokes less in the dressing room; perhaps it is connected to the birth of his child – Dmitriy Poloz

To give Mancini credit, Kokorin saw more of the ball. With Dzyuba and others absent, Kokorin finally had the opportunity to play how he liked. Mancini gave Kokorin a free role upfront where the emphasis on fast-flowing movement together with his new-found confidence became very effective. Kokorin also consistently tracked back to help his team defensively, which had not always been the case.

This was the player Kokorin could be when everything clicked, the player that the coaches had seen on the training pitch, and whom the fans at Zenit had only caught glimpses of. A hard-working player with excellent technique, cool, clever movement, and a ruthless eye for goal. His past sins were forgotten, but it was not to last.

This is already a different person. A sportsman! He (Kokorin) has become a footballer – Vitaly Mutko

Kokorin suffered an injury, which ruined Zenit’s season and forced him to miss out on the World Cup. But with what he did next – the significance of his growth in that season may be lost forever.

Lost Talent

Returning from his injury, Kokorin’s recovery process showed positive signs for him to reach his previous playing level. Unfortunately, following a game against Krasnodar he met up with his pal Mamaev “to celebrate ten years of friendship”, and they wreaked havoc in Moscow.

READ MORE: Alexandr Kokorin and Pavel Mamaev arrested in assault scandal

That marked Kokorin’s last appearance in the world of football since October 2018 and his stay in jail will now be until at least the 25th of September 2019.

I can not even convey how sad and horrible it is. They are just ****. So much soul was invested in them, I mean Kokorin… Vitaly Leontyevich. It’s so disappointing. They are utter freaks. Vitaly Leontyevich, after how much we invested in this whole football. And they took – everything ********. I am hurt just to tears, you know? – Sergey Fursenko, (alleged prank call, in which Fursenko believes he is speaking to Vitaly Mutko)

On the one hand you could say that he had it coming…

Naumov, the Lokomotiv president who was involved in Kokorin’s scandalous departure, for example, claims that from a young age Kokorin was an egoist, his stepfather was trying to make money off of him, and that Kokorin lacked inner strength. Consequently, he was not surprised that Kokorin’s environment took a toll on him and at what had happened during Kokorin’s career.

Certainly, it is true that Kokorin did not come from an affluent background. He left his parents and became the highest paid Russian footballer at a very young age. It seems likely that money and his surrounding environment had an impact on his mentality and motivation.

Let’s be frank: big money cannot have any influence on the actions, reactions, attitudes of a person. Money is a test. Very young guys need to go through this, let’s say – endure this. With big money comes a lot of pressure. Unfortunately, I see no support from anyone (for Kokorin) – neither from the coach of the club nor from the coach of the national team – Dmitry Ivanov

It is also true that Kokorin did not show the progress which would have been expected purely on the basis of his talent. Despite the growth in his wages since 2012-2013, arguably, the only other visible consistent growth for much of the time was his scandals.

However, looking past a needlessly flashy Instagram account and some questionable decisions in his public relations, it is doubtful that Kokorin was principally driven by money or simply an idiot.

A footballer has two faces – one in football and another in their personal life – Aleksandr Kokorin

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life for the heir??

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Kokorin was always quite clear that he believed in a move to Europe. If he had wanted to go abroad out of principle he, of course, could have done. He just seemed to have a very linear image of progress in his head.

I believe that Zenit is one of the strongest teams in Europe and it is simply pointless to move to the likes of West Bromwich Albion. If there is an option in Europe, then it must necessarily be a top club, such as Barcelona. I have often said that I am ready to crawl to this team on foot, otherwise I don’t see the point – Aleksandr Kokorin

Leaving to play in the English Premier League, for example, is not so difficult, but to get into a reputable team, that really has goals and big ambitions every season is harder. The bottom half of the English Premier League is not stronger than Zenit, I can say for sure, having played with them. To grow you need a team that sets itself high goals – Aleksandr Kokorin

The lack of stability at Russian clubs, not being played in his natural position, having continual pressure on him from fans and media, as well as injuries, are examples of things which probably got in the way of this ideal vision. But as he reminded us in 2017-2018 – he had the talent.

So it may be that Kokorin was youthfully naive, easily influenced, and a little jaded at some points. It is difficult to escape that impression even if Naumov, for example, is just being bitter. However, to me, the overwhelming image Kokorin paints is not really one of a careless egoist, but of a vulnerable talent.

Kokorin, of course, is a very gifted football player, but… he has no psychological stability. I remember when he started in Dinamo, this factor manifested itself: he could give out a brilliant series of games, then somehow fade away. It seems, he loves life, which is also not a bad thing. He sees how the girls are pretty, the grass is green, the sun is shining, the sea is blue. Life is such a thing, you can not blame him for it – Valery Gazzaev

Systemic Failure

The question remains: when Kokorin finally seemed to have realised something for himself in 2017-2018 and to have tackled it, why did he let it go to waste so easily? Did he not care after all?

Kokorin and Mamaev
Neil Salata/RFN

Perhaps to the contrary…

Kokorin had just missed a once in a lifetime domestic World Cup. Consequently, he also missed a good chance to move on from a team which had declined significantly since his arrival. Despite all his effort in the previous season they had still finished fifth in the league and he was now turning 28.

…Over the course of several months, the player was in a state of heightened tension associated with his profession – the need to recover from a serious injury, as well as the World Cup that was missed because of it. Those factors provoke a state of psychological stress. As a result, it is more difficult for a person to manage his emotions – Irina Ryukhina, Sports Psychologist at Zenit

So, was he really celebrating his friendship with Mamaev? Or were they both trying to rid their sorrows and frustration that night?

It has been a systemic failure of Russian football lately that players who are arguably over-ripe are missing their chance to go abroad, and that their motivation and talent is being watered down and kept hostage. This instead of the support they might need to develop and move on.

To me, it seems that Kokorin and Mamaev were lost for meaning in this environment and it spilt over into real life. With the choices they made – it started with silly jokes and progressed to self-destruction.

READ MORE: The Foreigner Limit and Exorbitant Parties in Monte Carlo

Of the three previously mentioned “star” Russian forwards – Dzyuba, Kokorin, and Smolov – none have yet made it abroad and we know that one of them is in jail. The least fancied player (Dzyuba) ended up on top, and largely not thanks to the speculation or greed on the part of his clubs – in spite of it. Kokorin’s case may seem as extreme as Dzyuba’s is unlikely, but there are many who crash and fall somewhere in between.

READ MORE: The Evolution Of Artem Dzyuba

Barring this incident, Kokorin by virtue of his talent could have broken free to have become Russia’s number one player and gone abroad for the next few years. But the tragic irony is that he did not – the golden child fell by the wayside, and in what appears the most inexplicable way.

Kokorin will become the star of the World Cup in Russia – Fabio Capello

We can question what led him there, and Kokorin was within his right to make a few mistakes along the way, but there’s ultimately no excuse for Kokorin’s actions this time. It was his choice to go out with Mamaev, to feature in the first incident, and then later to allegedly racially harass a government official and proceed to hit him with a chair

He himself chose this path. You know, when a mother’s son or a daughter makes mistakes, they always worry and, in spite of everything, they will still treat them as their children. So I am the same. I am very sad… I will not throw dirt at Sasha. But the fact is that he himself is to blame for everything turning out this way – Valery Staferov

Despite the remnant optimism of his Instagram profile picture and bio, Kokorin’s image in Russia is definitively tarnished, and it appears certain that he will never play for the Sbornaya again.

Kokorin, Kokorin, what have you done ?! I’m in shock… Mamma Mia! – Nhà Cái Trực Tuyến Hàng Đầu Châu Á́́Fabio Capello

The Message

The contrasting reactions of the two different clubs involved in this mess have been telling.

Krasnodar said they would be terminating Mamaev’s contract, Zenit said they would “punish” Kokorin. Zenit later included Kokorin in their Europa League squad, and manager Sergei Semak has recently spoken of possibly renewing Kokorin’s contract.

In the club’s position, the potential reputational hit has to be considered. The likelihood is that in 2018, given the severity of the incident, if Zenit had lost almost anyone but Kokorin from the 2017-2018 season, their reaction would have been different.

It is understandable but the likely materialistic and selfish basis for Zenit’s decision is kept quiet. Instead, it is presented to the outside world in the form of emotional messages from Semak and the players (see below).

Personally, I find it troubling, and to fall for it is arguably either naivety or selfish hypocrisy. Although in this case, the fact that the authorities are being stern (for better or for worse) is working in Zenit’s favour.

This is not about ethics, or Kokorin as a person – it is about money, the foreigner limit, and the club’s benefit. It is simply a lot easier for Zenit to re-sign Kokorin than it is to finally sort out their youth system etc. I find it troubling because it is this approach which you could argue influenced the ruin of Kokorin and the careers of many other young Russian players in the first place.

With less money around in Russian football, there has been an upswing among most of the top Russian clubs in using younger players and focusing on their youth products. From the top clubs, the clear exception is Zenit. Kokorin’s story should be a wake-up call, not an excuse for business as usual.

RPL U20 Players Used in Match Squads
Correct as of end of Week 22 in RPL 2018-2019 | David Sansun/RFN
RPL U23 Players Used in Match Squads
Correct as of end of Week 22 in RPL 2018-2019 | David Sansun/RFN

Mamaev is not the same as Kokorin, and Krasnodar’s team has youngsters like Shapi-Suleymanov who of course also make up the material deficit. But the difference is in the club.

We have 11 thousand boys (at Krasnodar Academy), and they should know that they will not have different requirements from ordinary people. They are paid a lot of money for this. If they think that they live in society and are free from it, then they should look to history. When their names are called out at the stadium, it imposes an obligation on them, whether they like it or not… The guys should know that it is wrong to hit a person on the head with a chair, that it is wrong for four people to hit someone on the floor… These boys should know that we will always react in this way… – Sergey Galitsky

READ MORE: Krasnodar’s Youth Academy Bearing Its First Fruits

Without changing in other areas first, it might seem hypocritical for Zenit to not allow Kokorin back, but otherwise, it sends the wrong message. It is not what is visible on the pitch or on social media that is most important.

People often ask me (why I call myself weak on social media)… It’s sarcastic… I’m not weak, I’m strong – Aleksandr Kokorin

Jail Letter

Thank you Kokorin for some memorable football moments, especially during 2017-2018. Had it not been for an injury, then things might have turned out differently for Zenit, for Russia, and for you yourself – we will never know.

Zenit is not the same team without you, but returning there is only likely to lure you (and others) back onto the same path that led you into this mess.

So it may not be how you wanted it, but if you get the opportunity it could be the right time to finally go abroad. Alternatively, as you’ve said before, you could always take up boxing again.

Kokorin Trial
Neil Salata/RFN

Author: Neil Salata

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