The €12m Men and Their Free Transfers to Zenit

Rostov's homefield Olimp-2 before last season's Europa League game against Manchester United. Photo: Danny Armstrong/RFN

Rostov’s homefield Olimp-2 before last season’s Europa League game against Manchester United. Photo: Danny Armstrong/RFN

€7 million and €5 million. That, according to Transfermarkt, is the value of Dmitry Poloz and Aleksandr Erokhin. Of course, this is an underestimation given the circumstances on the Russian market. Two Russian internationals, who have just finished the season of their careers with FC Rostov, with two more years left of their contract can’t cost that little, given the limit on foreign players and the lack of quality players with Russian passport.

Nevertheless, there is only one club in the country that can afford to buy such players, Gazprom backed Zenit St. Petersburg, who currently have their treasure chest filled with gold after selling both Axel Witsel and Hulk to Chinese clubs within the last year. In recent years, the Blue-White-Sky Blues have been known for buying the stars of the other Premier League teams, such as Danny, Vladimir Bystrov, Artem Dzyuba, Yury Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kokorin, who all came from some of their fiercest rivals. It is natural that they wanted to take advantage of FC Rostov’s financial issues, and bring in some of the key players of the team that beat Bayern Munich.

Therefore, one wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a total figure of around €20 million, or perhaps at least €15 million. But how much did Zenit really pay for these two Rostov stars? Zero million euros. Nothing.

The same amount Rostov received for goalkeepers Soslan Dzhanaev, who is a Russian international and conceded nine goals in 13 matches last season, and Nikita Medvedev, who broke the record of the longest spell of consecutive minutes in the Premier League without conceding a goal. Christian Noboa, Zenit’s first signing this summer, also joined them from Rostov for nothing.

The contracts of the last three players all expired, and they probably didn’t believe in the prospects of the team without head coach Kurban Berdyev, who has returned to Rubin Kazan. But neither Poloz nor Erokhin were free agents.

To find out, why the latter suddenly moved away for free, one has to dive into the mud of the Russian football world. Asked about his contract situation at Rostov after he joined Zenit, Poloz said: “In the current situation, this fact doesn’t matter much. Let’s put an end to this issue.”

Curiously enough, this is not the first time players move from Rostov to Zenit for free or next to nothing. Last summer, Ivan Novoseltsev, another Russian international, moved to Zenit for just €120,000. A ridiculously low price for one of the best Russian defenders, but Rostov still seemed happy about it. Someone who wasn’t happy though was Viktor Zakharov, Novoseltsev’s first coach. His football school was entitled to 1 percent of the transfer sum, and like everybody else he was expecting it to be around €10 million, which would grant him €100,000, but instead, he received only €1,000.

Apart from Zahkarov though, who cares? Poloz and Erokhin both got the opportunity to play for a bigger club and earn more money. Perhaps they used buy-out options, like it was rumoured Novoseltsev did a year ago. Surely, any player who is moving to a club on the edge of bankruptcy should insist on getting a clause like this in his contract. As for Rostov, they managed to pay off all debts to their current and previous players shortly after the pair left the club, and the fans, they should probably just be happy that their club is still alive, which is a rare thing in Russian football. Meanwhile, Zenit got two quality players at bargain prices, which helps them avoid problems with UEFA and their Financial Fair Play regulations, which is always a problem for Russian teams. All parties seems to benefit from such deals. Well, almost all.

Author: Ilya Sokolov

I became interested in football after the 1998 World Cup. Despite my dad wanting me to support Dynamo, I chose Lokomotiv (the name sounded great) and soon saw the team win the league for the first time in its history. Besides Loko, I also like watching Amateur League games in Moscow and its suburbs.

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