RFN Top 50 2017: 50-36

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 we start with the players ranked 50-36 (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.

Here are the lists of the previous two years’.

READ MORE: RFN TOP 50

 

50 – Anton Zabolotny (Forward, FC Tosno – now Zenit St. Petersburg) NEW ENTRY

Zabolotny along with his Tosno team-mate Evgeny Markov have been shining lights in the north-western side. The burly striker had formed a great partnership with Markov in their promotion season, and kept it going in the Premier League, contributing to 15 of Tosno’s 18 Premier League goals after their promotion. Zabolotny, in particular, has shone, earning himself a call-up to the Russian national side for the odd friendly match against Dinamo Moscow in which he scored, before making three further official caps against South Korea, Iran, and Argentina, all as a sub, assisting against the former. His excellent form then earned him a move to Zenit St. Petersburg, where he will play in Europe and under the tutelage of Roberto Mancini.

 

49 – Kirill Panchenko (Forward, Dinamo Moscow) NEW ENTRY

Dinamo’s talismanic forward was vital in getting them promoted back to the Premier League, but just ten matches into the season, having scored four goals, Panchenko picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury which would see him miss a large portion of the season, essentially ending his hopes of playing at the World Cup for Russia. He is irrevocably their attacking fulcrum, both this season and last in which he scored 24 goals and sat as top scorer of the FNL. Dinamo has languished ever since, and certainly face the threat of relegation. The sooner Panchenko can return, the better.

 

48 – Aleksandru Gatçan (Midfielder, FC Rostov) -16

The Moldovan veteran has petered a little, and has dropped down our list a lot this year. Having scored an equaliser on the opening day, Gatçan has had trouble with his form under the management of Leonid Kuchuk and Rostov have struggled for it. A notable improvement, however, is that his temperament seems to have calmed somewhat, as he is yet to be sent off this season, though he has picked up seven yellow cards. Aged 34, the midfielder is in the twilight of his career, and Rostov has already signed two new midfielders this winter, which could signal a drop in game time for the veteran who was all so important in their ultimately failed run for the title in 2016.

 

47 – Erik Bicfalvi (Midfielder, Ural Ekaterinburg) NEW ENTRY

The Romanian midfielder is the biggest bright spark in Ural’s season, and without him, they may well be lingering near the relegation spots. His goals alone have garnered Ural eight points, which without they would be in the bottom two. Picking up goals from distance, from set plays, and goals from nothing, Bicfalvi has continued the form which earned him the move a year ago from Tom Tomsk, and he’ll need to continue doing so to keep Ural safe.

 

46 – Dmitry Kombarov (Defender, Spartak Moscow) NEW ENTRY

The ageing left-back has continued in the Champions’ lineup this year, in a side which faltered for a while but slowly settled into the season. Now aged 30, Kombarov faces competition for the left back spot in the national team with Yury Zhirkov, Konstantin Rausch, Evgeny Chernov and Elmir Nabiullin all being called up this year, but regular game time and a Europa League spot could see him potentially claim the starting spot for his own. He still possesses a wicked cross, one of the best in Russia, and a keen galactic-like connection to Spartak captain Denis Glushakov, with their strong friendship off-the-pitch paying dividends on it.

 

45 – Aleksandr Erokhin (Midfielder, Zenit St. Petersburg) -14

Erokhin was one of a number of players to jump the sinking Rostov ship and move to Zenit this summer. While Zenit picked up Leo Paredes, Matías Kranevitter, Christian Noboa and Daler Kuzyaev for their midfield, it looked liked Erokhin’s game time may be severely limited, but he has forged himself a place in the team, scoring important goals against Spartak Moscow, Krasnodar and Real Sociedad, and he remains a prominent choice for the Russian national side too. A career gamble which has paid off. His drop in the standings is largely due to Rostov themselves hugely overperforming throughout 2016, compared to this year’s return to normality.

 

44 – Sylvester ‘Sly’ Igboun (Forward, FC Ufa) NEW ENTRY

Sylvester Igboun has become Ufa’s all time top foreign goalscorer this season, taking his overall tally to 13 goals. The Nigerian forward, affectionately known as Sly by team-mates and commentators alike, is the main outlet in Ufa’s attack. If they are going to do something in a game, the chances are it will be Sly to do it. Floating around the whole attacking portion of the pitch, dropping deep, drifting wide, and meeting crosses in the box, Igboun has proved himself to be a workhorse and a terrific if yet a somewhat inconsistent player in a very limited tactical system.

 

43 – Timofey Kalachev (Midfielder, FC Rostov) -7

No, that is not a typo. Kalachev has been given a new lease of life this season. Having spent the bulk of his career playing on the right flank, as a midfielder or defender in recent years, Kalachev has found himself deployed behind the striker in Rostov’s 3-4-2-1 formation, and is the very definition of a game changer. Up until an injury ruled him out for six weeks, Kalachev was the only thing pushing Rostov forward. When he was out Rostov faltered, but when he came back in a game against Rubin, he turned the game on its head within 20 minutes. Rostov suddenly had confidence and were desperately unlucky not to score. The Belarussian seems to only be getting better and better with age – something he also has plenty of, turning 37 in May.

 

42 – Aleksandr Belenov (Goalkeeper, FC Ufa) NEW ENTRY

Ufa’s player of 2017, Aleksandr Belenov, this year yet again proved himself to be one of the best goalkeepers in Russia. Receiving his first call-up to the Russia National Team aged 31 in the Autumn, but not making his debut, Belenov has been vital in propelling Ufa up to seventh place. Game after game the Russian puts in outstanding performances and certainly is in the prime of his career, and having faced five penalties, holds the best save ratio in the league, with three saved – an incredible 60%.

 

41 – Sardar Azmoun (Forward, Rubin Kazan) -32

The Iranian forward raised eyebrows by joining Rubin Kazan in the summer, when rumours of multi-million pound moves to Italy and Germany loomed. But having left Rostov to stay with his mentor Kurban Berdyev, the 23-year-old hit one of the roughest patches of his whole career, going over 1000 minutes without scoring, before finally hitting the back of the net on the final day before the winter break against SKA. A player who undoubtedly has a big future, but relies on confidence, he’ll be hoping to pick his form up so that he can show the world what he can do in the World Cup. This massive drop in form is a result of why he has dropped so many places in this year’s list.

 

40 – Yann M’Vila (Midfielder, Rubin Kazan) NEW ENTRY

M’Vila could well have just played the last year of his career in Russia, with Rubin Kazan looking to part ways with the Frenchmen due to his gigantic wages. A move to Saint Etienne looms, and the Tatars can finally say goodbye to his extraordinarily high €120,000 per-week wages. However, he has experienced perhaps one of the best years of his career in terms of how well he played and output, with a number of goals, important or otherwise, and also being handed the captains armband by Kurban Berdyev in the second half of the year. He is not just doing a Pogrebnyak; stealing a living, but genuinely performing brilliantly for Rubin.

 

39 – Emmanuel Mammama (Defender, Zenit St. Petersburg) NEW ENTRY

Mammana has come into Zenit as one of five new Argentinians and settled in particularly well after a difficult start where he made a couple of mistakes in his early games. With Zenit rotating between Mammana, Miha Mevlja and Branislav Ivanović at the centre of their defence, Mammana has not had one solid staring partner and has, therefore, had to accommodate himself with the idea of not knowing who he will be playing with, or if he will even play at all. Despite this, he has performed very well and is one of the most composed defenders with the ball at foot in the whole of the RFPL.

 

38 – Artem Dzyuba (Forward, Zenit St. Petersburg) -34

Dzyuba has endured a tough year, particularly since Roberto Mancini took over as manager of Zenit. The big target man has found playing time very hard to come by after the signing of Dmitriy Poloz and Sebastián Driussi, as well as the re-emergence of Aleksandr Kokorin, who has been in electric form under Mancini. As a result, Dzyuba has registered just three goals and assists in 24 games in all competitions this season. Rumours suggest he could well be on the move, probably another loan, in a late bid to stake his claim for the World Cup squad this summer.

 

37 – Vasily Berezutsky (Defender, CSKA Moscow) NEW ENTRY

One of CSKA’s old guard has yet again been an ever present in CSKA’s defence, playing a vital role in their back three. Now aged 35 and retired from the Russian national team, Berezeutsky is able to focus solely on club football and was finally able to help his old pal Igor Akinfeev keep a clean sheet in the Champions League.

 

36 – Ari (Forward, Lokomotiv Moscow) NEW ENTRY

The Krasnodar-owned Brazilian has played on loan for Lokomotiv Moscow all year, bar a summer break. At the tail end of last season, Ari bagged six goals for Lokomotiv, enough to earn him a second loan, but the forward suffered a long-term injury after just two matches of the new season, causing him to be out until after Christmas. The 32-year-old recently said he wanted to play for the Russian national team, but until he’s fit, it’s just a pipedream.

Tune in tomorrow for 35-21!

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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