Danny propelling Zenit challenge
Just one of several Portuguese players to have tried their luck in Russian football over the last five or six years, Danny has enjoyed more success than most, building up a reputation as a matchwinner for Zenit St Petersburg.
Born in Venezuela to Portuguese parents, the 27-year-old striker moved to Madeira at the age of 15, starting his career with local outfit Maritimo and eventually earning a move to Sporting Lisbon. Failing to make much of an impression for Os Leões, he decided to try his luck in Russia, where, after proving his worth at Dynamo Moscow, he moved to FC Zenit for a record Russian transfer fee of €30m in 2008.
That large outlay has proved to be money well spent, with the Portuguese target man scoring twice for his new club as they downed Manchester United in the UEFA European Super Cup that same year. The goals have flowed freely for Danny ever since, his contributions for the big-spending Russians resulting in a call-up to the Portugal side and a place in the squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
South African setback
Yet things did not go as planned for the rangy target man in the world finals. Appearing in three of his country’s four games, he failed to replicate his league form as Carlos Queiroz’s side made a disappointing exit in the Round of 16.
It has been an entirely different story for the striker since resuming his club duties. With compatriots Fernando Meira and now Bruno Alves for company, Danny has been in fine form in the Russian league of late, helping them to a seven-point lead over CSKA Moscow and Rubin Kazan, champions for the past two seasons.
Zenit’s top scorer so far this season with five goals, he has also chipped in with five assists, though he failed to get on the scoresheet in the weekend’s 1-1 home draw with former club Dynamo Moscow, a game in which Alves made his debut in the centre of the Zenit defence alongside Meira.
Gunning for glory
Aside from the league, Danny and his fellow countryman are also gunning for success in Europe, their next continental engagement coming in Tuesday’s first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off against Auxerre.
The high-flying Russians are banking on their Portuguese idol to reproduce the kind of performance that helped them see off Romania’s Unirea Urziceni in the third qualifying round. Following a goalless draw in the first leg away from home, Danny struck the only goal of the return match to tee up an intriguing tie with the Frenchmen.
The winners of the UEFA Cup and Super Cup two years ago, the Russians are anxious to see their ambitious transfer policy rewarded with further success in Europe. Danny is a central part of that objective, and should he help them see off Auxerre to earn a place in the lucrative group phase, Zenit’s investment in his services will look even wiser.