2022 promises to be a year of change for Zenit. The winter transformation of the attacking line is only the first link in the chain of personnel metamorphosis, for which the Russian champions must be ready. The future of the Bilo-Syni depends on the quality of the decisions made and the candidates selected, as well as the situation at the top of the Russian league.
Renewal of the attacking line: minus Azmun, plus Alberto and Sergeyev
“Zenit could definitely part with Azmoun on more favorable terms, because Serdar announced his plans in advance. The Iranian was asked to wait for a meeting with the club management at the training camp, and he chose Bayer, which embarrassed Mr. Medvedev. It was possible to make good money on the sale of Azmoun, but the Petersburg team was let down by their complacency: they had no doubt that the forward would extend his contract until the moment when they saw him with a Bayer T-shirt in his hands in the newsfeed.
As a result, Serdar was not tormented any longer and was released for 2.5 million, while he was given 10 times more for Yuri Alberto. From the economic point of view, Zenit did not work perfectly, because Azmoun, sold on time, could pay for the transfer of a new striker, but if we abstract away from finances and evaluate the sports component, it’s all right. The reaction to the departure of Serdar was the acceleration of the transfer of Yuri Alberto, who was preparing to join the team in the summer, and also signed Ivan Sergeyev, that is, now the attacking line is staffed even better than in the first part of the season.
By the way, the transfer of Sergeev is unfairly underestimated by many, but Ivan may become the main forward of “Zenit” in the spring, because Alberto will need time to adapt, and Dzyuba does not fit for the new schemes of Semak. At the same time the two newcomers can play both as a pair and individually, and next to Dzyuba the “pillar”. The versatility of the attack has increased, in addition, the new combination looks interesting precisely in terms of long-term prospects. This is a positive transformation.
The next step in the transformation of the attack: the possible departure of Dzyuba in summer
Artem will turn 34 this year, and Sergey Semak made it clear back in the first part of the season that Dzyuba is no longer “untouchable”. Moreover, this policy towards the forward will probably continue in the spring: Zenit does not want to get into an automatic contract extension with Artyom, which is activated if the player plays more than 70% of his playing minutes. Apparently, the club wants to control this relationship, and if so, Dzyuba’s departure in the summer is more than likely. Moreover, he himself wants to play constantly and be in the spotlight.
Magomed Ozdoyev: It’s been decided to extend
In addition to Dzyuba, who I will talk about separately, the contracts of several other Russian players expire at the end of the 2021/22 season: Erokhin, Sutormin and Ozdoyev. With the first two there are verbal extension agreements (although Sutormin is also tempted by Dynamo), but the situation with the contract of Magomed until recently remained tense. The Russian national team midfielder looked towards Moscow clubs, but Zenit will have the last word in this story: the contract with Ozdoev will be extended for two years.
The decision is correct, because it will be difficult to find an equal replacement for the limited position, and Ozdoyev is only 29 years old – the sunset of his career is still far away. Moreover, we were talking about strengthening the RPL competitors, so it was necessary not only to take Magomed away from the Zenit squad, but to add him to Dynamo or CSKA. Contract extension is the only right decision in the current circumstances.
Goalkeepers: The new number one and the renewal of the squad
One more situation that can’t be left unresolved. “Zenit need to shake up their goalkeeping. Injured Kritzyuk, veteran Mikhail Kerzhakov and 19-year-old Daniil Odoyevsky are an unreliable combination for a club planning to play on two fronts.
There will probably be a new “number one” in St. Petersburg this summer: if not Matvey Safonov, who will be difficult to get out of Krasnodar, then Ilya Lantratov from Khimki or Nikita Haikin from Bude-Glimt. The goalkeeper line renewal could turn out to be more global, too, if Kerzhakov finishes his career and Odoevsky is sent on loan for playing practice.
Perhaps Zenit need a new center of defense
Zenit currently have two 32-year-old internationals in their center of defense – the Ukrainian Rakitskiy and the Croatian Lovren. Moreover, Dejan’s level of play is not good, and Jaroslav’s contract is on the finish line, and new negotiations have not been successful yet. Rumors confirm that Zenit is sifting through left-footed centerbacks, today it became known about the interest in 20-year-old Ecuadorian from Bayer Pietro Incapier.
The seventh South American in the lineup could be a direct replacement for Rakitsky, who is now closer to leaving than to being extended. The Ukrainian defender’s class is good enough for the RPL, but Zenit suffered repeatedly in the Champions League due to the slow defense, so the right replacement for Yaroslav is an important step to improve competitiveness in the international arena, and although it would be worth doing the same with Lovren, his contract until 2023 could be a significant obstacle. In addition, Zenit won’t be able to get money for their older centerbacks, and they’ll have to pay for their replacements.