RFN Top 50 2017: 35-21

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 35-21 (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.

 

35 – Aleksandr Samedov (Midfielder, Spartak Moscow) -15

2017 was a fantastic year for Aleksandr Samedov. It saw him return to Spartak Moscow, the club where he started his career, and there he even won his first Russian championship. Despite turning 33 during the summer, Samedov remains an important player for both Spartak as well as the Russian national team. However, he isn’t quite as decisive as earlier, and the really good performances are now fewer and further apart.

 

34 – Sebastián Driussi (Forward, Zenit St. Petersburg) NEW ENTRY

Driussi arrived in Russia off the back of a standout season in Argentina with River Plate, where he bagged 20 goals in his final 36-game season. He started with a bang too, bagging a brace on his league debut against Rubin Kazan before following that up with a late winner for Zenit St Petersburg in only Roberto Mancini’s second game in charge. Since then the 21-year-old has added a further three assists to his tally for the season. A good finisher bursting with energy, Driussi is still some way off being the finished article, but he’s made a better start than most players his age and there’s plenty of optimism for the remainder of the season ahead. Could contribute more defensively but that’s only minor criticism in the grand scheme of things.

 

33 – Mauricio Pereyra (Midfielder, FC Krasnodar) NEW ENTRY

Krasnodar’s long-serving attacking midfielder remains a solid presence in the centre of the pitch for his Russian employers, where his keen eye for a pass has proven crucial to the team’s success. Linked with a move to the San Jose Earthquakes and Major League Soccer last summer, Pereyra resisted those overtures to deliver yet again in the Russian Premier League. The 27-year-old Uruguayan has already racked up six assists this term and is the focal point of the Krasnodar midfield. He still needs to add more goals to his game though, with a return of just one in the league a poor tally for a midfielder who may still harbour ambitions of earning a call-up to the Uruguay senior side.

 

32 – Vedran Ćorluka (Defender, Lokomotiv Moscow) -18

A key component of Lokotmotiv Moscow’s successful Russian Cup campaign last season, Corluka’s absence has been keenly felt since the 31-year-old ruptured his right Achilles tendon during a thrilling 3-3 league draw with Amkar Perm last season. An experienced head at the back for Lokomotiv, the defender’s return simply cannot come soon enough, despite Lokomotiv’s electric start to the current campaign, which has seen the Railwaymen move eight points clear of Zenit. Having a wise old head like Corluka around the place would be of huge benefit ahead of a busy run-in and likely title charge. A fine passer of the ball and leader at the back, Corluka’s tackling may not always pass muster but he’s on the money more often than he is not.

 

31 – Aleksandr Selikhov (Goalkeeper, Spartak Moscow) +7

Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Aleksandr Selikhov ended months of speculation over his future by signing for reigning champions Spartak Moscow last summer – and with good reason. The 22-year-old may have caught the eye of plenty of clubs during his time between the sticks for Amkar Perm but, in Artyom Rebrov, Spartak already had a goalkeeper in excellent form and one who had played a key role in their title success. The younger has nevertheless fared well in his new role, supplanting Rebrov as the club’s first-choice keeper with some fine displays. A final 7-0 defeat to Liverpool in Spartak’s Champions League group stage decider but the future still looks bright for a keeper who could yet head to the World Cup as a reserve shot-stopper.

 

30 – Igor Denisov (Midfielder, Lokomotiv Moscow) NEW ENTRY

A controversial midfielder at the best of times and one who courted plenty of controversy with both the Russian national team and at previous clubs Zenit and Dinamo Moscow, Igor Denisov finally looks to be returning to what he’s good at: playing football. The 33-year-old impressed enough during an initial loan spell with Lokomotiv Moscow to earn a permanent move and has played an important defensive role in the Parovozy’s march up the table. The veteran’s experience in the heart of the midfield could be crucial if Lokomotiv are to build on last season’s Russian Cup win with a league title. A steely, hard-tackling and efficient operator, Denisov’s biggest enemy is his own big mouth. If he can keep that in check – and the signs so far are that he can – then a late-career flourish looks on the cards.

 

29 – Bibras Natkho (Midfielder, CSKA Moscow) NEW ENTRY

CSKA Moscow’s Israeli midfield dynamo looks to be returning to something approaching the kind of form that saw him named in the 2014/15 Russian Premier League team of the season.  Four goals and three assists in all competitions is a solid return for a player known for his passing and dead ball delivery, but there’s always room for improvement. A tricky but slight operator in the middle of the park, Natcho could still benefit from adding a little more steel to his game if CSKA are to close the gap and earn Champions League football next season. Already on course for his best season in three years, it’s been a good year so far for Natcho but there could be even better to come for a player supposedly in the peak years of his footballing powers.

 

28 – Zé Luís (Forward, Spartak Moscow) -16

The Cape Verde international played an important role in Spartak Moscow’s Premier League and Super Cup double and with 19 goals in 63 games for the capital club, finally looks to be coming into his own. A tricky operator equally adept at setting up goals as he is scoring them, the former Braga man has been attracting interest from the Premier League of late, with Brighton keen on landing the Fogo-born star as part of a cut-price £5 million deal. Spartak won’t part with the attacker lightly though and with plenty of the season still to play and a Europa League campaign to come, he could still play an important role in their season.

 

27 – Emiliano Rigoni (Midfielder, Zenit St. Petersburg) NEW ENTRY

Zenit St Petersburg’s other Argentine summer important alongside Sebastian Driussi, Rigoni hasn’t made a massive impact on the Russian Premier League just yet but it’s a different story on the continent. The midfielder has racked up an impressive six goals in six games for Zenit in the Europa League, spearheading the club’s assault on a competition they will be hopeful of winning. The undoubted highlight came last October with a first career hat-trick against Rosenborg in a 3-1 win. It was a performance that showcased Rigoni’s obvious potential. A versatile attacking midfielder who is confident on the ball and not afraid to shoot from distance, the 24-year-old just needs to work on the other facets of his game now.

 

26 – Daler Kuzyaev (Midfielder, Zenit St. Petersburg) NEW ENTRY

Another summer recruit for Zenit, Daler arrived in St Petersburg after making a name for himself as an all-action midfielder with Terek Grozny. A versatile and accommodating presence in the centre of the park for Roberto Mancini’s team, what he lacks in finesse he more than makes up for in sheer hard work and defensive contribution. That hasn’t stopped him enjoying a solid enough return in front of goal either, having scored four times and laid on a further three assists already this season. Capable of slotting into a variety of roles, Kuzyaev also earned a call-up to the Russia national side in 2017, earning four caps along the way. With utility players proving an increasingly rare breed, his versatility could yet earn him a place in the squad for next summer’s World Cup.

 

25 – Anton Miranchuk (Midfielder, Lokomotiv Moscow) NEW ENTRY

Spartak Moscow must rue the day they let this precocious midfielder slip through their grasps as a youth player, but their loss has ended up being Lokomotiv Moscow’s gain with Anton Miranchuk emerging as a star in the making over the past year. Capable of playing anywhere across the midfield, the 22-year-old hasn’t looked back since a loan spell with Estonian side Levadia Tallinn, where he bagged 14 goals in 30 league appearances. He’s already scored twice for Lokomotiv this term and has five assists to his name. Keep that sort of tally up and he may just force his way into Stanislav Cherchesov’s plans for the summer. One thing is for sure: the future is looking bright for the Slavyansk-na-Kubani-born star.

 

24 – Andrey Lunev (Goalkeeper, Zenit St. Petersburg) NEW ENTRY

Zenit’s man between the posts has had to bide his time before emerging as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper but the past 12 months have seen him do exactly that, while also forcing his way into the national team picture. An integral part of the St Petersburg club’s fine start in the Europa League, the Moscow-born shot-stopper has earned plenty of praise for his reflexes and shot-stopping abilities. More significantly still, he’s also emerged as something of a penalty specialist, which could prove useful for both club and country ahead of a busy few months on both front. A useful asset to have and a player that could prove the difference for both Zenit and possibly even Russia.

 

23 – Vitinho (Forward, CSKA Moscow) NEW ENTRY

The 24-year-old Brazilian has brought some Samba style back to proceedings at CSKA Moscow, echoing the previous efforts of club legends like Vagner Love and Daniel Carvalho in the process. Though he initially endured some teething problems resulting in a loan back to his homeland with Internacional, he’s started to find his feet once again having returned to the fold with the Russian club in January 2017.  A skilful, intelligent forward most adept with the ball at his feet rather than in the air, the Brazilian had chalked up nine goals and three assists already this season in all competitions, including a couple of important goals in Europe. Vitinho has proven to be a real team player too, regularly tracking back to contribute to the team’s efforts. The only shame is that Russia can’t recruit him for their World Cup efforts.

 

22 – Roman Zobnin (Midfielder, Spartak Moscow) +21

A bargain buy from Dynamo Moscow following their relegation in 2016, Zobnin enjoyed an impressive debut season with Spartak, playing 32 times and scoring twice to help Massimo Carrera’s team to an unlikely Russian Premier League title. A Russian international since earning his first cap back in 2015, he’s still some way off cementing his place in the national team setup and has endured limited playing time this season due to a raft of injury issues. His versatility is still an important part of his game though, with Zobnin equally adept in a defensive, full-back, position as he is in a more advanced wide midfield role. A good passer of the ball who isn’t afraid to weigh in with a tackle or two, Zobnin could still do with adding more goals to his game.

 

21 – Luiz Adriano (Forward, Spartak Moscow) NEW ENTRY

He may have failed to cut the mustard in Italy with AC Milan but the Rossoneri’s loss has ended up being Spartak Moscow’s gain with the Brazilian back firing on all cylinders following a January move to the club. Adriano made his name in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk so it’s not a massive shock to see him take to the Russian Premier League with ease. He’s already bagged seven goals and six assists this term to further emphasis his contribution bot has a goal poacher and as a team player, capable of holding up the ball, bringing others into the action and laying on a killer pass.  Well on course to reach double figures for goals with the Moscow club.

Author: Jack Beresford

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