Evaluating the performance of Rubin’s €40m summer signings


Last summer Rubin Kazan spent €40m, according to Transfermarkt, on a whole host of big name signings from Europe, but it was to no avail as under the management of Spaniard Javi Gracia, Rubin struggled to finish in 9th place, with many of their signings –  though not all of them – failing to make an impact during the season. So just how well spent was that €40m?

Alex Song – Free transfer from FC Barcelona

Perhaps the most high profile of all the players who joined, with experience at Barcelona and Arsenal. Clearly a player with supreme talent, but fitting into the system implemented by Javi Gracia seemed to be an issue. In his first matches, he showed his class, putting in good performances against Tom and Anzhi, where he provided a great assist for Maxim Kanunnikov. After the win at Ufa, his performances dropped, and then he became injured. In the spring, rumours arose of the squad being unhappy with him, but just a few weeks later the same Song who played well in the early games re-appeared, with good performances against FC Krasnodar and Krylia Sovetov. His partnership with M’Vila was not ideal, however, as both players like to roam with the ball, leaving gaps.

Whether he is worth the high wages is another question, but it would be a surprise to see him remain in Russia this summer.


Alex Song (left) during a game against Zenit. Photo: Вячеслав Евдокимов

Alex Song (left) during a game against Zenit. Photo: Вячеслав Евдокимов – fc-zenit.ru

Moritz Bauer – €4m from Grasshoppers

Bauer has been one of Rubin’s best players this season. Coming from Grasshoppers, he was the least known of all the new legionnaires, but he quickly adapted to replace injured right back Oleg Kuzmin. His willingness to adapt to Russia, learn the language and performances on the pitch have endeared him to many Rubin fans, and Bauer seems like a pleasant and smart character on and off the pitch. In the first half of the season, he provided four assists, the top provider for the team, and his high performance and work rate have kept Kuzmin on the bench even after he returned from injury. His performances have even reportedly attracted interest from Serie A, La Liga and the Premier League, so perhaps keeping hold of the talented full back will be difficult this summer.


Sergio Sánchez – Free transfer from Panathinaikos

Low expectations were had about Sanchez, and his early performances matched this, as he struggled to adapt to Russia, and form a partnership with Taras Burlak in defence. After this, Carlos Zambrano stepped into the team, and Sánchez for a long time sat on the bench, watching from afar. Only in the spring, after some poor form from Zambrano, was the Spaniard allowed him to get back into the team. His emergence back in the team saw a completely new Sánchez, and he had excellent performances in games against Krasnodar and Krylia, apart from one lapse which allowed Smolov to score – and despite this, he probably was still the best player in the defence on this day.

Maybe Sánchez was judged too soon, as his performances are starting to show some promise.


Carlos Zambrano – €3.5m from Eintracht Frankfurt

The Peruvian international, with long term experience in the Bundesliga, seemed like a perfect signing for Rubin – surely his talent would be able to help Rubin’s defence? Early signs were good, and he did start to form a good partnership with Taras Burlak – despite the language barrier. There were clear indicators that he is a talented defender, such as reading the game well, being confident with the ball at his feet, bringing the ball out of defence. But as the season progressed, Rubin’s defence got worse, and in the spring, there were goals which Zambrano was clearly at fault for. This saw him dropped from the team, before an injury put him on the bench for the rest of the season. Perhaps next season, with more adaptation, the real Zambrano will be seen again.


Samu García – €5m from Villarreal CF

From the first time Samu stepped onto a pitch in Russia, it seemed strange that Rubin would spend €5m on this player. His general level of play was poor, and as a winger, he did not appear to have the attributes to succeed in this position. Only once did Samu offer the idea that he was a player who could succeed for Rubin, after that, it was back to anonymous performances. Of course, Rubin fans can thank Samu for two things. He did work hard; when he played, did not look lazy. And next, his goal to save embarrassment against SKA Khabarovsk in the cup, a beautiful header in extra time. In January, he quickly returned to La Liga to play on loan for Leganes, and it would be unlikely to see him return back to Rubin next season.


Maxime Lestienne. Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов

Maxime Lestienne. Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов

Maxime Lestienne – €10m from Al-Arabi

The joint top transfer this summer, Lestienne seemed perhaps the most exciting player to arrive in Kazan. A fast, talented winger, with good experience at the top level of football, though with the worst year he could imagine in 2015/16m after the loss of both his parents. His first game showed great promise. He came off the bench against Ural, and provided a dazzling performance, as he lobbed the goalkeeper with his first touch, though it was cleared off the line, before scoring a fine goal later on rounding the keeper to tap in. However, this Lestienne would not be seen again for Rubin all season. Reports of turning up to training while drunk and arguments with the squad indicated why he spent so much time on the bench, but towards the end of the season he started three matches, and even score twice against Tom Tomsk. Clearly he is supremely talented, but he needs to focus, and gain confidence. He can still have a future for Rubin, but only if he regains his focus.


Ruben Rochina – €10m from Granada CF

This classy midfielder also cost Rubin €10m, and immediately it was clear that he was perhaps the most talented player in the squad. In his first few matches, he provided classy dribbles, fancy touches, great assists, and a great goal. After his injury, Rubin’s general level of play greatly dropped, and they have been a much poorer team without him in the squad. He is the central cog which links attack and midfield, who can hold the ball, make space for his team-mates, and play the crucial pass for a goal. It seems obvious that if he had been fit for the spring, Rubin could have won a number of games and reached the cup final, and surely Rubin fans will look forward to when he is fully fit again next season.


Jonathas – €7m from Real Sociedad

The Brazilian giant has been the bright point in Rubin’s dark season. Without his goals, Rubin could have even been looking at relegation or the playoffs. Many did not expect much from Jonathas, and one of first matches, against Ural, where he missed countless chances, seemed to indicate that maybe he would be another foreign player who failed in Russia. In the run up to Christmas, however, Jonathas found his form, and scored many vital goals to give Rubin many wins, even scoring in 6 consecutive matches.

After the winter break, the whole team, including Jonathas, played considerably worse, and after the game in December against Spartak, he did not score again the league until the final day of the season. Regardless, he still continued to be Rubin’s biggest threat, and without him, they would be nowhere.


Rifat Zhemaletdinov and Georgiy Makhatadze – €450,000

The two youngsters from Lokomotiv joined with lots of promise, but their role in the team was hard to predict. It became clear quickly that Zhemaletdinov was closer to the first team, and with injuries to Tkachuk and Kannunikov, he was able to play a number of matches in the starting lineup. These matches had good and bad moments in them. He often showed good feet and general play in wide positions, but he should have probably scored 4-5 goals in those games, and his misses cost Rubin greatly. His lack of experience is no doubt the main reason for this, but this young Russian at least shows promise, though Rubin’s own young star Akhmetov perhaps has out-shone him.

Makhatadze has not made an impact on the first team, so it seems harsh to judge him; hopefully in the future he can start to play and help solve problems in Rubin’s midfield.



Realistically, the only successes from Rubin’s signings were Moritz Bauer and Jonathas. Others, like Zhemaletdinov, Zambrano and Lestienne had their moments, but as a whole, most of the big money was wasted. As a result, Rubin have little to spend this summer, but arguably have the quality in their ranks already to make a challenge; it’s just the way the club operates and is managed that will influence how well the team performs next season. Nevertheless, it’s expected that Alex Song and Samu García will definitely leave the club, but the rest look as though they may stay for another season at least.

Author: David Sansun

Arsenal and Rubin Kazan fan. Possibly too optimistic for Russian football which means I’m left disappointed a lot.

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