The determination of the main star is always an event. The title of the best footballer of the year was given by the Glavnaya Stavka expert Evgeny Lovchev to the striker of the Russian national team and Zenit Artem Dzyuba, highlighting also two more players: CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and Lokomotiv midfielder Alexei Miranchuk.

Spartak and publicity

First, a small digression, with an example from my career. In 1972, Spartak took 13th place (shared 11-13th place) in the USSR Championship. At the end of the championship, in a conversation with Gena Logofet, I shared my expectations with him: “I think they will recognize me as the best footballer of the year,” I tell him. And Gena replies that this is impossible, they say “publicity” will not be enough. Logofet meant that Spartak was too far from leadership positions in Soviet football that season to be recognized as the best player. Nevertheless, experts and journalists chose me as the best! And they voted in all the republics, including in the newspaper, for example, “Vecherny Dushanbe”, where there was not even a major league team at that time. So, despite the low result of Spartak, my game is remembered.

Why did I remember this? When we try to choose the best one, a dilemma always arises – what criterion should we rely on, what should be considered first of all – the team’s achievements or the player’s contribution to the game of his team?

Dzyuba – show

In the outgoing year, Artem Dziuba got rid of these doubts – he spent the year in such a way that he deprived the choice of an alternative. The striker diversified his game, revealed himself as an assistant and now leads the championship in two bombarding nominations – the first in both goals and the goal + pass system. Dziuba’s merit in Zenit’s victory last season and unconditional leadership in the current one is very great.

Artem made a very significant contribution to the success of the national team, which had a successful year. It is by the national team, in my opinion, that now we need to assess the level of football in the country.

Clubs in many championships are mini-teams of the world, but the results of the national team speak about the state of affairs much more. Russia, under the leadership of Cherchesov, continued the rise, which began at the World Championships. Yes, Belgium with two victories clearly showed the difference between the leading teams and us, but Russia won all the other matches! When did this happen? And Artem Dzyuba again became the leading figure of the national team.

But I highlight it not only for this reason. Now Dziuba has a big social role in our football. If before the World Cup our children usually wore T-shirts with the names of Messi and Ronaldo, today more and more often they have “Dziuba” written on their backs. And the gesture that Artem has been demonstrating for a year and a half, saluting the fans after the goals, has become one of the symbols of Russian football. I just now realized that football is a show. Dziuba organically added to his success on the field the qualities of a showman who popularizes the game. Therefore, my choice is unambiguous – the best football player of 2019, Artem Dziuba.

Captain’s rescue

Sometimes the level of a football player and his influence on the team can be judged in his absence. Igor Akinfeev has not played for the Russian national team for a year and a half, and his absence remains noticeable and continues to affect. As well as Igor’s experience and reliability at CSKA. The army team has a very young and so far mediocre squad. Many players are unstable, the class of some midfielders and defenders does not allow us to solve maximum problems with them, and I generally consider CSKA’s defense weak. But Akinfeev often corrects the gross mistakes of his partners, which allowed CSKA to score points in many matches.

The team keeps afloat and remains among the contenders for medals largely thanks to the skill of Igor Akinfeev

The same thing happened in the Europa League, where sometimes only the rescue of the captain kept CSKA’s chances of avoiding defeat. I will put Akinfeev in second place.

Miranchuk’s reserve

Back in my time they said – “the ball itself will trust the one to whom you can trust.” In Lokomotiv, the role of Alexey Miranchuk becomes decisive. A clear indicator is the trust on the part of partners. Both the Russians, young and experienced, and legionnaires, boldly and often give Miranchuk the ball both for the development of the attack and for its completion. And Chorluka and Krykhovyak are experienced and venerable footballers, they played with many stars of the European level, they have the opportunity to compare. And if they trust Alexei so confidently, it means they see him as a great master and leader of the team. Farfan and other senior partners – foreigners also trusted him.

Alexey Miranchuk is noticeable not only in the final stage of the attack, not only with assists and goals, including from free throws.

Miranchuk plays Lokomotiv’s creative game – he stands out in all parts of the pitch

But so far all this concerns only Lokomotiv. As part of the national team, Alexei is still showing himself modest. There he is no longer so noticeable and effective, his potential is lost somewhere. In the national team, Oleksiy Miranchuk has a large reserve that has yet to be realized. Therefore, I will put it only in third place.

Where are you stars?

Celebrating the best Russian players, one has to go back in time. When there were world-class figures in our football. Recently they sent me a photo of me standing with Oleg Blokhin and Vladimir Astapovsky, our company looked symbolic. I became the best footballer of the USSR in 1972, Blokhin three times in a row from 1973 to 1975, and in 1976 – Astapovsky. At the same time, Blokhin in 1975 was also recognized as the best in Europe.

Domestic football has had such significant international successes in every decade. Lev Yashin received the Golden Ball in 1963, and 5 years later three torpedo players, Eduard Streltsov, Valery Voronin and Slava Metreveli played for the world team. Three of our players are in the world team! And it was not out of thin air that talk about the 1958 World Cup, which could become the Streltsov tournament, came from. If not for the tragedy, he could outshine Pele himself at that championship, which for the first time became famous all over the world.

Our football back then was rich in outstanding personalities who were recognized as stars by the highest international standards. Today, our best players, even with all my sympathy for them and all their achievements, are very far from the scale of the stars of the past.