Yuri Zhirkov is one of the most senior players in the Russia squad in terms of age. Only captain Igor Akinfeev and centre-back Sergei Ignashevich can come close to matching his experience on the international stage.
It was the left midfielder’s display at UEFA EURO 2008 ten years ago that put him on the radar of top European clubs, with Chelsea acquiring his signature shortly after the tournament. Although he may not have tapped his full potential during two seasons in England, he did have some success at the Blues, lifting the Premier League title to go alongside the two league championships he won at CSKA Moscow. Even now at Zenit Saint Petersburg, Zhirkov consistently gets praised for his performances.
Head coach Stanislav Cherchesov made an unerring assessment when asked about Zhirkov: "You can’t do without this kind of player. You can put Zhirkov in any position and he’ll always do the right things."