RFN Top 50 2017: 20-11

As 2017 has turned into 2018, it is time for an annual tradition on russianfootballnews.com: The RFN Top 50. We rank the 50 best players in the Russian Football Premier League (RFPL) in 2017 by genuine ability alone, and now it’s time for the players ranked 20-11 (movement compared to last year’s ranking is shown in brackets). 

This is the third year in our annual tradition, and definitely the hardest yet. Let us know who you would have picked, and we hope you enjoy it.

Find the players ranked 50-36 here.

Find the players ranked 35-21 here.

 

20 – Georgi Dzhikiya (Defender, Spartak Moscow) NEW ENTRY

2017 was quite the year for Georgi Dzhikiya. It saw him step from being a talent to a regular profile in the RFPL. It also saw him move from Amkar Perm to Spartak Moscow and win the Russian championship. Lastly, he became a regular on the Russian national team and played full time at the Confederations Cup.

All of this was no coincidence. Dzhikiya is one of the best defenders in Russia with his combination of technical ability, football intelligence and physical strength, and his future looks bright.

 

19 – Andreas Granqvist (Defender, FC Krasnodar) +9

The Swedish central defender is a leader in the truest sense of the word. He moved to Krasnodar prior to the 2013/2014 season, and he has played a huge role in Krasnodar’s development in recent years. Granqvist is the kind of player who leads and inspires his teammates both on and off the pitch.

He’s a physically strong defender, who can duel with the best strikers in the world. He’s furthermore technically gifted and able to participate and contribute to Krasnodar’s attacking build-up. Unfortunately, Granqvist looks set to leave Krasnodar in the near future, as he is ready to return home to his beloved Helsingborg.

 

18 – Solomon Kverkvelia (Defender, Lokomotiv Moscow) NEW ENTRY

It has been a pleasure to follow the Georgian defender recently. Ever since he made his debut for Rubin Kazan a few seasons ago, it has been obvious to anybody that he is a special player. Kverkvelia is lightning fast, but yet he remains physically strong, while also being good on the ball. Therefore, it was a shock when Rubin decided they couldn’t use him anymore.

However, their loss was Lokomotiv’s gain, and he is now leading the Railroaders towards their first championship in a decade and a half. In record time, Kverkvelia has established himself as a cornerstone in Lokomotiv’s team, and also made more RFN Team of the Week appearances than any other player in the RFPL in 2017.

 

17 – Leandro Paredes (Midfielder, Zenit St. Petersburg) NEW ENTRY

Leandro Paredes has taken St. Petersburg with storm this season. Since his move from AS Roma in the summer of 2017, he has shown himself to be one of the best midfielders in Russia. Paredes isn’t always a flashy player, but he is effective. He is the kind of player who knows when to pick the difficult and when to pick the easy option, when on the ball. This makes him an excellent playmaker, and one of Zenit’s most prized assets.

Since moving to St. Petersburg, Leandro Paredes has even become a regular in the national team squad of Argentina, which is fully deserved.

 

16 – Branislav Ivanović (Defender, Zenit St. Petersburg) NEW ENTRY

Ivanović was one of the best defenders in the Russian league when he played for Lokomotiv Moscow, more than a decade ago, and after returning to Zenit, he has continued where he left off. The former Champions League winner has an impressive resumé, and he is an important part of Zenit’s team.

The Serbian doesn’t quite have the same presence as in his peak at Chelsea, but he remains a quality player. Because of his loss of speed, Ivanović mostly plays in the central defence these days, and from here he controls and manages Zenit’s backline with the ability and vision of a true field general.

 

15 – Igor Akinfeev (Goalkeeper, CSKA Moscow) +2

After years of mockery, Igor Akinfeev finally managed to keep a clean sheet in the Champions League in 2017. The historic moment came in November in a 2-0 victory against SL Benfica, and it clearly lifted the pressure off his shoulders.

Akinfeev remains the best goalkeeper in the RFPL and the number one choice on the national team. He is a complete goalkeeper without any specific weaknesses; strong on the goal line, in his distribution and in the air. His biggest problem unfortunately, is that his bottom level can be quite low on the biggest international stage, which is why we have seen him commit some high profile errors in recent years.

 

14 – Viktor Claesson (Forward, FC Krasnodar) NEW ENTRY

Viktor Claesson has taken some enormous steps forward since joining FC Krasnodar in the winter of 2017. The Swedish international is constantly among Krasnodar’s best players, and his offensive contribution to the team is great. Claesson has an incredible vision of his teammates, and he has a fantastic collaboration with top scorer Fedor Smolov.

However, Claesson is also a hard-working player, and his aggressive pressure is an important part of Krasnodar’s defensive play as well.

 

13 – Fernando (Midfielder, Spartak Moscow) -0

Brazilian Fernando is one of the unsung heroes of the RFPL. The Brazilian’s hard work allows his more flashy teammates the freedom they need to thrive. He is constantly guarding the central defenders, allowing the wing backs to move forward and the forwards to take save their energy for the important actions.

However, Fernando is much more than just a garbage man. He is a great passer with a good eye for his teammates. He is constantly aware of where both his opponents and teammates are located, which is why his positioning is at a high level. Fernando is furthermore a set-piece specialist, able to deliver even under the greatest pressure, shown most importantly with his excellent goal against Liverpool at the Otkrytie Arena

 

12 – Domenico Criscito (Defender, Zenit St. Petersburg) +9

The Italian defender has been rumoured away from St. Petersburg for years now, but he remains an integral part of the team. Criscito always meets the expectations, and you know what you get. Furthermore, he is versatile and can play on both the left back and as a central defender.

Recently, he has played primarily on the left back, from where he is a constant threat to his opponents. Criscito is an offensively-minded player, who terrorizes the left wing with his constant runs forward.

 

11 – Mário Fernandes (Defender, CSKA Moscow) -0

What Criscito is doing on the left wing, Fernandes is doing on the right. The former Brazilian national team player is now a naturalised Russian and is set to become one of the stars of Sbornaya. Fernandes has for years been one of CSKA’s key players and is the best right back in Russia. He combines good tackling and foresight with excellent offensive skills. He is a great dribbler, able to take on any defender, and has a good eye for his teammates.

Fernandes is actually so good offensively, that Viktor Goncharenko has used him as an outright winger on several occasions, which allows him to get into even more dangerous positions.

Toke Møller Theilade

Author: Toke Møller Theilade

Brøndby supporter, groundhopper and more importantly Editor-in-Chief at Russianfootballnews.com. As a hopeless romantic, I still believe Fyodor Smolov and Viktoria Lopyreva has a future together.

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