Ten RPL Winter Window Transfers to Watch

Anton Zinkovskiy being unveiled by Krylia after joining from Chertanovo | fc-samara.ru

As the RPL returned from its winter hibernation over the weekend, it does so having lost one of its star players in Zenit’s Leandro Paredes. Whilst the Argentine’s departure to PSG is a blow for the league, there has been a fresh intake of talent into the league as its 16 representatives have been busy in the January transfer market. The January window has also seen players already in the RPL swap one club for another in order to get their 2019 off to a fresh start.

READ MORE: Russian Premier Liga – Transfer Window Review

1. Damian Szymanski

From: Wisla Plock

To: Akhmat Grozny

Fee: €1.5 million

Currently lying ninth in the RPL, Akhmat Grozny established themselves as a surprise package and are in contention for Europa League qualification. The superb form of 20-year-old Ivorian midfielder Idrissa Doumbia also proved to be a major factor for their decent position. Doumbia, a €1.3 million summer signing from Anderlecht, impressed so much in the first half of the season that Akhmat were powerless to prevent him leaving the club for Portuguese giants Sporting CP for €4.5 million in the winter window.

Clearly, Doumbia’s departure leaves a hole that needs filling in Akhmat’s side and to do this, they have signed 23-year-old Polish international Damian Szymanski from Wisla Plock. Szymanski comes to Chechnya with a big reputation after impressive performances domestically in Poland which resulted in him debuting for the Polish national team in October 2018 against Italy.

He made his debut against Rubin Kazan at the weekend, and impressed alongside Anton Shvets. His role was very much as a ball-winning midfielder, and he looked to recycle play at nearly every opportunity to his water-carrying partner. But he performed well, completing more interceptions and tackles than anyone else on the pitch as the away side were unfortunate to lost to a 94th minute set-piece goal.

2. Bakary Kone

From: Ankaragucu

To: Arsenal Tula

Fee: Free Transfer

After their incredibly impressive 2-0 victory over CSKA Moscow on Saturday, Arsenal Tula are potential Europa League qualifiers. Arsenal currently have the joint second-worse defensive record in the league with 25 goals conceded in 17 games so far. With this in mind, the club recruited a central defender in the winter transfer window and one with an impressive past pedigree as well.

That player is 30-year-old Burkina Faso international Bakary Kone. Signed on a free transfer from Turkish club Ankaragucu, Kone once had a glowing reputation in French football, after impressing in Ligue 2 with Guingamp, Kone signed for Olympique Lyonnais in 2011. Kone then spent five seasons at the club, two of which were as a regular starter. After a disappointing 2016/17 season at Malaga, Kone signed on loan last season for newly promoted Ligue 1 club Strasbourg and helped the Alsatians survive in the top flight making 29 first team appearances.

The Tula-based outfit will hope for Kone to have a similar impact as to what he had in France with Strasbourg after a brief spell in Turkish football. It is a signing which certainly catches the eye given Kone’s past clubs and reputation should he break into the side. On the other hand, however, that is much easier said than done considering the performances of central defensive duo Maksim Belyaev and Gia Grigalava at the weekend.

3. Kristoffer Olsson

From: AIK Solna

To: Krasnodar

Fee: €4.5 million

During the 2018/19 season, FK Krasnodar finally emerged as genuine RPL title contenders after many years of knocking on the door of the elite group of clubs. There is a growing belief that the Southern outfit can claim their first RPL title in May, just 11 years after their foundation. Despite drawing with Spartak at the Otkrytie last night, they are still just three points behind Zenit.

In a serious attempt to strengthen these title ambitions, Krasnodar went into the transfer market and signed 23-year-old Kristoffer Olsson. The Swedish midfielder’s reputation blossomed in recent seasons following back-to-back title wins in Denmark with Midtjylland and last season in Sweden with AIK. One could argue Olsson caught the eye of admirers in the RPL when playing for his country Sweden in a 2-0 victory against Russia in their UEFA Nations League B group fixture last November, where he impressed and played the whole 90 minutes.

After Cristian Cueva failed to settle int life in Russia following his summer transfer from Sao Paulo and subsequent departure on loan to Santos, Olsson should get regular first team football at Krasnodar.

He’s started 2/3 competitive games so far since signing and has impressed in all three for his willingness to make late runs into the box and vision from deep. He was unlucky not to pick up a late winner against Spartak after a vicious strike from the edge of the penalty area cannoned back off the bar.

4. Aleksandr Samedov

From: Spartak Moscow

To: Krylia Sovetov

Fee: Free Transfer

Krylia Sovetov are looking to shake off their tag of being the atypical yo-yo club between the RPL and second tier FNL. The Samara-based outfit were busy in the winter transfer market and one of their most potentially impressive captures is 34-year-old winger Aleksandr Samedov.

Samedov, a veteran of two FIFA World Cups, a European Championship and 53 caps for the Sbornaya also has 394 RPL appearances with Spartak, Lokomotiv and Dinamo Moscow under his belt. Despite not having the pace of previous seasons, Samedov still has a very good level of crossing ability, which would suit Krylia’s veteran target man striker Sergei Kornilenko.

Samedov had struggled for games this season at Spartak yet despite this for Krylia to sign him is a coup for a newly-promoted club. They started well with a hard-earned draw at the RZD Arena on Saturday afternoon and Samedov was their chief creator, picking up an assist for fellow signing from Spartak Jano Ananidze.

READ MORE: Aleksandr Samedov – From Spartak to Spartak

5. Anton Zinkovskiy

From: Chertanovo Moscow

To: Krylia Sovetov

Fee: €350,000

Another Krylia winter window signing and one who is highly thought of in Russian football circles. 22-year-old left winger Anton Zinkovskiy had a superb first half of the season in the second-tier with Chertanovo Moscow with 11 goals and two assists in 22 FNL games highlighting a real breakthrough season for the youngster who was tipped for a move to an RPL club.

Krylia won the race for Zinkovskiy’s services and his goalscoring record suggests he is more of an inside forward winger on the left-flank and a very different option to Samedov. His pace, dribbling ability and shots when cutting in from out wide gives Krylia a good balance on their flanks.

A product of Chertanovo’s famed academy, he is just one of three players to make the step from Chertanovo to the RPL (along with Maksim Glushenkov and Nail Umyarov) was the most talented player in the FNL and is more than ready to make a name for himself among the elite.

READ MORE: Chertanovo Moscow – Finally getting the recognition they deserve?

6. Ivelin Popov

From: Spartak Moscow

To: Rostov

Fee: Free Transfer

Enduring a tough season the Red-Whites started to rebuild their squad in the winter transfer window by initiating a squad clear-out. Another of the players moved on by Spartak is 31-year-old Bulgarian attacking midfielder Ivelin Popov.

One of the veterans of Spartak’s 2016/17 title triumph, Popov gradually fell out of favour at Spartak and spent part of last season on loan at Rubin Kazan. After barely featuring this season for Spartak and not in manager Oleg Kononov’s plans, Popov promptly signed for Rostov after being released by the club.

For Rostov, this signing is a coup as they chase Europa League qualification. Popov provides creativity in the final third and the versatility of being able to play both centrally and as a winger. This signing gives Rostov some much-needed squad depth after some key winter window departures. He has already started with a goal against Krasnodar in the Russian Cup on his competitive debut and dictated play from midfield in the draw at Enisey (in Sochi).

7. Aryton Lucas

From: Fluminense

To: Spartak Moscow

Transfer Fee: €7.3 million

Whilst there has been a culling of playing staff at Spartak this winter window as a result of the clear-out initiated under Kononov, there has also been fresh blood injected into the squad with some new arrivals. The most prominent arrival in the winter was that of Brazilian 21-year-old left back Aryton Lucas.

Lucas comes to Spartak with a big reputation and a bigger transfer fee, the highest they have paid since the flop-signing of fellow Brazilian Pedro Rosha. The 2018 Brazilian Serie A season was Lucas’ breakthrough year at Fluminense as he made 28 appearances as a first-team regular for the Rio-based outfit.

With Dimitri Kombarov ageing and starting to decline in performances in recent seasons, finding a long-term replacement for him was vital for Spartak and they will hope that Lucas can prove such an acquisition. he provided the assist for Ze Luis’ goal against Krasnodar with a well-placed route one punt in behind.

8. Ayaz Guliev

From: FK Rostov

To: Spartak Moscow

Transfer Fee: €1 million

Another Spartak winter window signing and a player who is getting a proverbial second bite of the cherry at Spartak. 22-year-old academy product midfielder Ayaz Guliev was sold to Rostov in the summer for €500,000 after struggling to break through into the first team at Spartak.

Guliev’s failure to break through from Spartak’s youth and reserve teams, however, seemingly inspired him in the first half of this season. Guliev has kept Rostov’s play ticking over nicely in midfield and despite only recording one goal and three assists so far in 14 RPL games, he has frequently been one of Rostov’s best players.

Spartak, as aforementioned, have undergone a managerial change by bringing in Oleg Kononov and Kononov has a brief to rebuild Spartak’s team with younger players. Spartak did have a buy back clause with Guliev for when they initially sold him to Rostov and Kononov rates the midfielder highly enough that he and Spartak have exercised the clause.

Guliev’s return to Spartak now puts the position of veteran Denis Glushakov who has incurred the wrath of Spartak’s fans with his performances this season at risk.

If yesterday is anything to go by, Glushakov’s days are numbered as Guliev was chosen ahead for a vitally important game, and when Glushakov did eventually get onto the pitch he looked distinctly like a man who would quite rather have been anywhere else in the world.

READ MORE: Rostov Rejuvenated – Smart Transfer Recruitment Pays Dividends

9. Yaroslav Rakitskiy

From: Shakhtar Donetsk

To: Zenit St Petersburg

Fee: €10.5 million

Zenit, despite their leadership of the RPL, have found things tough in the games prior to the winter break and were in need of fresh blood to reignite their title challenge. They struggle annually during this time, in a period known as “Zenit’s Winter Curse”, but arguably this is the best they have fared in years during their curse.

READ MORE: Zenit and the Winter Curse

Even prior to their recent woes before the winter break, it was common knowledge that Zenit needed a central defender as the likes of Luis Neto and Miha Mevlja since signing for the Piter outfit had struggled to make an impression. Whilst one should never make predictions with signings, the purchase of 29-year-old Ukrainian central defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy looks like a fine acquisition by the club.

Rakitskiy had a solid debut in defence during Zenit’s 1-0 first leg defeat in their Last 32 Europa League tie against Fenerbahce. A defender with vast experience in the Ukrainian Premier League, Champions League and Europa League with Shakhtar as well as two European Championship finals with the Ukrainian national team. Rakitskiy looks already to be a long term leader in Zenit’s central defence when veteran Branislav Ivanovic eventually leaves the club.

READ MORE: Yaroslav Rakitskiy – Zenit’s new defensive rock

10. Wilmar Barrios

From: Boca Juniors

To: Zenit

Fee: €15 million

After accepting a reported transfer fee of around €40 million for their star man Leandro Paredes from PSG, Zenit set about using the proceeds from this sale to invest in rebuilding areas in need of surgery. One such area in need of an upgrade included the defensive midfield position. Arguably, Zenit consistently lacked a fine player in this role since legendary figure Anatoliy Tymoshchuk left the club in 2015.

Zenit therefore splashed the cash on 25 year-old Colombian Wilmar Barrios from Boca Juniors. Barrios, who made three appearances for his country last summer in the World Cup, also helped his former club to the controversial 2018 Copa Libertadores final against arch-rivals River Plate. It proved to be a bittersweet two-legged affair for Barrios as in extra-time of the second leg with the tie level at 3-3 on aggregate, Barrios was sent off for a second yellow card. River then defeated Boca 5-3 on aggregate after extra time upon conclusion of the second leg.

Barrios had an impressive debut for Zenit in the aforementioned 1-0 defeat to Fenerbahce playing in a defensive midfield role and has the potential to be a fine acquisition for the Piter outfit. With Krasnodar chasing Zenit down in the race for the title, Barrios’ signing could be an inspired piece of business for the Blue-White-Sky Blues.

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Author: Richard Pike

Wigan Athletic season ticket holder whose first memories of Russian football were TV highlights of Spartak’s 4-1 victory against Arsenal in the 2000-01 Champions League. Huge fan of the Russian Premier League, other mid-ranking European leagues and the English Football League

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