Even though Yuri Zhirkov is one of the oldest players in a much-changed Russia squad, the coaching staff are investing a lot of hope in him. "You can’t throw away these kinds of players," said head coach Stanislav Cherchesov. "The youngsters need experienced team-mates by their side."
If there is one thing Zhirkov has by the bucketload, it is experience: he was performing on the international stage back at UEFA EURO 2008, universally considered as Russia’s most successful tournament in the modern era. His excellent displays in Austria and Switzerland drew the world’s attention to the nimble winger and potential suitors were soon lining up for his signature. He may not have reached his full potential at Chelsea, but he unquestionably enjoyed plenty of high points in England.
Apart from him, there is no-one in the Russia squad who has played in Europe’s top leagues, so their role is doubly important at the upcoming international tournaments.
"I know Zhirkov very well," Cherchesov revealed. "He carries himself excellently on and off the pitch. Yuri can play in any position and do the right job, without making big mistakes. He’s a great help to the national team."