In our weekly Scout feature, Daniel Roberts takes a detailed look at a new emerging talent from world football. Today we inspect Russia’s midfield wonderkid Aleksandr Golovin.
Set to star at Euro 2016, the 20-year-old will be one of the danger men for Russia when England kick off their tournament on Saturday. The midfielder who was born in Kaltan, Russia, was a part of the Metallurg-Kuzbass Academy and was touted to join a Premier League side after impressing scouts during his time there.
However, Golovin stayed closer to home and joined his native countries big-boys CSKA Moscow in 2012 to continue his youth development. On signing for the club, the modest youngster said, “I used to play football just because I enjoyed it, I never imagined one day I would reach the level to join a club like CSKA.”
Soon after joining, he saw a call up to the under-17 Russian national side to take part in the 2013 European Under-17 Championship, which they would go on to win. After returning to CSKA, he waited another two years until he was given the chance to in the senior squad, making his senior league debut in a comfortable 4-0 victory against Mordovia, coming on with 19 minutes remaining, finishing the game with an impressive 92% pass completion.
He would follow that up in the next fixture against Arsenal Tula, coming off the bench again to make an attacking impact on the game. He would end the 2014/15 season with seven appearances – all from the bench – finishing with an 89% average pass accuracy.
After impressing in his debut season, international recognition came and he was rewarded with his first international call-up and appearance, coming off the bench to score a debut goal against Belarus.
This season, the youngster has played in 17 games, starting 11, and grabbed his first goal for the club in a 7-1 thrashing of Mordovia back in April. The highlight of his club campaign undoubtedly came in the Russia Cup semi-final against FK Krasnodar, scoring two first half goals to set his side up for a 3-1 victory to reach the final.
After another notable season, he was once again called up to the national side ahead of EURO 2016 and firmly cemented his place in the squad, scoring in Russia’s friendly against Lithuania.
Capable of playing the in centre of midfield or on the wings, the 5ft 11in midfielder is fantastic with the ball at his feet, displaying great dribbling and passing. He can the read the game to high standard, which is incredible when you realise he is just 20 years of age, and his positional sense allows him to comfortably play in the heart of midfield, offering defensive stability when his side are not on the offense.
Another main asset of his game his dangerous set pieces, whether it comes from a cross into the box or through his accurate dead-ball shooting. His only downfalls are his lack of real pace, meaning he his far suited to playing as a no. 10 and the little physicality he possesses, however, neither flaw is enough to hinder the player in becoming a big-hitter for club and country for years to come.
What the experts say?
Former Russia Under-21 coach Dmitri Khomukha: “His basic technique, passing and understanding of game situations – that was what marked him out from his peers. Players who can change the pace of the game and make a key pass have always been of major value in football.
Russia manager Leonid Slutsky: “He can really become a high-level player.”
Where does his future lie?
The imminent goals for Golovin is to cement his place in the starting eleven for Russia and help his country reach the knockout stages of Euro 2016.
With the Russians missing star midfielder Alan Dzagoev through injury, the similarities between the players would make the 20-year-old a natural replacement. Therefore, it is more than likely we will see Golovin occupy the space behind the striker throughout the tournament.
If he has an impressive tournament, it is probable transfer speculation will increase, especially as scouts from the around the world will taking a closer look at the midfielder and how he fares.
With Liverpool tentatively linked, especially with Jurgen Klopp favouring youthful transfer policy, a strong tournament could see him make a summer move to the Premier League, however, on discussing his future, the midfielder indicated, “my goal is to settle at CSKA and represent the club for as long as I can; to become one of CSKA’s key performers and maybe spend my whole career here.”
Regardless of where he does ply his trade in the incoming seasons, the Russians certainly have a special talent on their hands.
Danny Roberts – @