RFN Top 50: Analysis, Methodology & Statistics

Spoilers for the RFN Top 50! If you haven’t read any of the articles, go ahead and take a look starting from 50-36 in the link below.


Once of RFN’s great traditions has come and gone; the RFN Top 50. Quincy Promes finished twice for two years running, but now the top prize is finally his, and deservedly so.

Of course, a big-club and results bias exists; ability simply breeds success and vice versa, therefore the bigger clubs dominate and the big-name players occupy the top spots.

I have taken an in-depth look at the list, and I honestly think it’s our best and most accurate yet. Of course, some surprise players haven’t made the cut, and the final order may surprise. But I think we got it pretty spot on.


But just how have we figured it out?

We have judged the players on ability alone, bringing in no other external factors, asking ourselves simply: Who just are the best 50 footballers in Russia?

We deliberate on the process, methodology, and selection at first. Then, after defining the parameters, it’s a two-stage process.

Editor-in-Chief Toke first asks our writers to develop a list of simply 50 players, completely unranked. These are our personal lists, and can contain anybody you like with simply one rule; list 50 different players – so we can’t have 50 Boris Rotenberg Jr’s, unfortunately.

These are all collated and returned, and the 50 players with the most votes are deduced.

Then, once we have found the 50 players, we’ll initiate the second round of voting, which will determine their rank on the list.

Each player on the final list is ranked by each individual writer in order from 50-1. After this, the votes are tallied, with each player 50th in a writers’ list granted a solitary point, and those in first place receiving a coveted 50.

Remember, these are the overall BEST players in the league on ability alone, and NOT the players who have performed the best in 2017

The Players

10 players have moved up in rank:
Selikhov (7), Zobnin (21), Granqvist (9), Akinfeev (2), Criscito (9), Glushakov (1), Golovin (21), Kokorin (20), Wernbloom (1), and Quincy (1).

9 have moved down the rankings:
Gatcan (-16), Erokhin (-14), Kalachev (-7), Azmoun (-32), Dzyuba (-34), Samedov (-15), Corluka (-18), Ze Luis (-16), and Smolov (-1).

3(!!) have remained the same:
Fernando (13th), Mario Fernandes (11th) and Dzagoev (7th).

There are 28 new additions including:
…2 surprises;
Al. Miranchuk (4th), Manuel Fernandes (3rd).

…4 who were included in 2015;
V. Berezutskiy (37th), Ari (36th), Natkho (29th), Kverkvelia (18th).

…9 new players transferred into the RFPL in 2017;
Mammana (39th), Driussi (34th), Rigoni (27th), Vitinho (23rd), Luiz Adriano (21st), Paredes (17th), Ivanovic (16th), Claesson (14th), Farfan (10th).

…2 from sides promoted to the RFPL in 2017;
Zabolotny (50th), Panchenko (49th).

Although judged upon pure ability alone, it is hard not to take other factors into account when making such difficult decisions, thus explaining why Corluka has lost 18 places, as is the case with Ze Luis, Samedov and possibly even Smolov. Azmoun, Erokhin, and Gatcan I’d wager were simply hyped upon and raised far too high due to Rostov’s success. Or that Erokhin simply *isn’t that good* (oh, and neither is Dzyuba).

Zobnin, on the other hand, spent four months out yet his stock has risen by 21 places. Of course, much of his hard work in this was done in the previous season.

I was somewhat astonished to find neither Manu Fernandes nor Aleksei Miranchuk on this last year, documenting Loko’s success this season.

Although one has now moved on to Zenit, it is great to see two promoted teams’ players included. None were in 2015 or 2016.

The likelihood of three players having exactly the same position again is surely astronomical considering the numbers of writers voting and amount of variables involved.

The Teams

The 50 players make up 11 teams in the league;
Spartak (10), Zenit (10), Loko (8), CSKA (8), Krasnodar (4), Rostov (3*), Ufa (2), Rubin (2*), Ural (1), Dinamo (1), and Tosno (1).
*Sardar Azmoun moved to Rubin in the summer and thus will count as a Rubin player, but it must be noted that his performances at Rostov warranted his inclusion.

6 sides saw the number of their players included rise from 2016;
Spartak (2), Loko (6), CSKA (2), Ufa (2), Dinamo* (1) and Tosno* (1).
*It must also be noted here that neither Dinamo nor Tosno was included last year as they were in the FNL.

7 sides amount of players dropped from 2016;
Zenit (-1), Krasnodar (-2), Rostov (-5), Rubin (-2), Akhmat (-2), Amkar (-1), Anzhi (-1).

This is the second year in a row in which the Top 50 consisted of 11 sides, however differing from last year as Akhmat, Amkar and Anzhi had 0 players included, while Dinamo, Tosno, and Ufa made the list.

This highest ever number of separate teams included was 12 way back in 2015, a list dominated by CSKA (11 players) and Zenit (9). Kuban Krasnodar even made a surprise inclusion through the excellent form of Lorenzo Melgarejo (26th, now at Spartak) and Vladislav Ignatiev (46th, now at Loko). Krasnodar appeared just 3 times but have now wholly taken over from their local rivals in terms of ability, size and support base in southern Russia, as Kuban struggle in the FNL – a far-cry from the heady days of 2013 when they boasted the highest attendances in the whole of Russia, with an average over 32,000 at the Kuban Stadium.

Rostov have likewise pale in comparison to last year’s triumphant 9 players; they have all essentially left the club for pastures new (mainly Zenit or Rubin). Spartak and Loko replace them on the list as the power base and elite have shifted back towards Moscow completely.

On the bright side, however, more “smaller sides” than ever before populating the list; with Tosno and Ufa both debuting. On the contrary, however, the concentration of players from the “top five” is higher than ever before; 80%.

There goes for another year in Russian football, and I’m genuinely more delighted than ever before to see the back of 2017. Aside from being a rough year, it seemed a long one with all the excitement around the corner, the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

For a link to all the analytics of the 2015-2017 RFN Top 50’s, follow the link below:

READ MORE: RFN Top 50 2017-2018 Analysis

Author: James Nickels

Born and raised in South Shields, the direct mid-point between Sunderland and Newcastle in North-East England during an era of sustained success and European football for the Magpies, while the Black Cats floundered in the lower divisions, so naturally I decided to support Sunderland. I’ve developed an interest in Russian football over the last decade or so, but it piqued while studying for my Masters’ Degree in Russian and Soviet History, and I’ve been hooked by Spartak Moscow ever since. Considers Eduard Streltsov the best of his generation, and a fond proponent of his repatriation.

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