Everything you need to know about: Aleksandr Golovin

Aleksandr Golovin during a game for CSKA Moscow. Photo: Дмитрий Голубович

At the age of just 21, Aleksandr Golovin is considered by many to be just about the best playmaker in Russia at the moment. It is hard to believe the composition and intelligence belongs to a man not long out of his teens, and one who has become the creative lynchpin for both club and country.

Golovin has grown through the youth system of CSKA Moscow, the club with which he signed as a 16-year-old with skills acquired originally from playing futsal, and has established himself in the starting line-up over the past two seasons and is already the owner of a Russian championship winners medal, clinching the title with ‘The Army Men’ in 2016.

Golovin’s progression to date can be measured by the fact only four years ago he was part of the brilliant 2013 UEFA U-17 European Championships winning Russia team and has since graduated to impress on senior international duty as well as for club. He started six league games during CSKA’s title winning season, before going on to make 30 starts last term and has started all eight games so far this campaign.

Praise for Golovin has been immense from many corners of the Russian and Western press. Most notably Arsenal were reportedly moments away from signing the player earlier this summer. The plaudits from admiring press have plentiful and deserved.

READ MORE: Ones To Watch – Aleksandr Golovin

However, those who have, not unreasonably, singled out Golovin as the ‘future of Russian football’ may be advised to not be hasty in their estimations. That same tag was bestowed upon Aleksandr Kokorin, a player who promised to be a national side saviour and his lack of on-field application but abundance of own off-field activity indirectly scuppered interest from Arsenal, a move that would have provided the opportunity for his career to reach new heights.

Before Kokorin, Andrei Arshavin’s Arsenal move came to fruition, but his supernova start to Premier League life with the Gunners eventually fizzled and faded, and ended with just that fabled four-goal haul at Anfield to show. However, his is a path Golovin surely must replicate if his career is to progress.

However, for the time being, Golovin’s focus is CSKA. In the Champions League the Moscow team have perhaps been given an awkward group. Head coach Viktor Goncharenko has already singled out Manchester United as likely group winners and made his team’s focus battling for the second qualification spot with Basel and Benfica.

The effectiveness of Golovin’s role as one half of a creative duo with Alan Dzagoev, nestled into a usual central midfield three, cannot be underestimated. His deft, direct passing into feet are vital to CSKA attacks, and he is often instrumental in buildup play.

Golovin clocked up 90 minutes in each of Russia’s three games in their ill-fated home Confederations Cup over the summer and was one of the shining lights of an otherwise dim campaign for ‘Sbornaya’ and contributing to his 15 caps overall so far for his country as Russia crashed out at the group stage.

Those appearances were clocked up in the absence of teammate Dzagoev, ruled out through a persistent hamstring injury that dogged him throughout the last campaign, but it is by no stroke of luck that Golovin continues to outshine his creative partner.

Under current manager Stanislav Cherchesov he has flourished in the central midfield role, but under the guidance of former club and country boss Leonid Slutsky, now at Hull City, he received his breakthrough.  

After scoring two goals in his first three international appearances as a 19-year-old, wonderkid Golovin earned the moniker ‘the Russian Ronaldo’ from some corners of the press. Slutsky had this to say about his charge.

“In the Russia national team, I care about Golovin more than the rest. Not because he is from CSKA, but because he is the youngest of them. And you saw what happened [he scored twice in three senior games] – with statistics like that, you can leave the national team with your head held high.”

So far this season, Golovin has contributed a goal and an assist, those stats perhaps not doing justice to his overall contribution on the field. Former Manchester United star Andrei Kanchelskis has said that the youngster could leave for the Premier League should an offer present itself.

Golovin is a grounded young man, seemingly unfazed by potential riches and the many nonsenses in which young Russian stars indulge. Money certainly won’t be a factor should he stay or go, a move that would see one thrive and the other falter should a move materialize in the near future.

Daniel Armstrong

Author: Daniel Armstrong

Danny Armstrong is a Moscow-based, FIFA-accredited sports journalist for RT.com, who has been writing & reporting for RFN since 2015. Previously Editor of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), he has also worked for the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and covered events such as the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, the FED Cup, the Russian Premier League & world championship boxing. Also worked for BBC & The Moscow Times.

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