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- Aug 1, 2010
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Player fall-outs, visa disputes, salaries and questionable refereeing decisions dominate eastern Europe's football scene
The interminable transfer sagas of Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney, Luis Suárez and Robert Lewandowski are dominating the headlines around western Europe but there is also plenty going on in the east of the continent.
[h=2]Russia[/h]When his head is right, Igor Denisov is one of the best holding midfielders in Europe but his head goes awry with alarming frequency. Last season, he was at the centre of the Zenit players' revolt against the salaries earned by the two big-name arrivals, Hulk and Axel Witsel, and ended up spending several weeks training with the reserves.
He moved to Anzhi in the summer but after falling out with Samuel Eto'o and Lassana Diarra, there were reports last week that he had been released. The club have now denied that but it does appear that Denisov is training alone as he tries to maintain his fitness for Russia's World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland next week.
[h=2]Kazakhstan[/h]Aktobe, the easternmost team left in the Europa League, will travel to Iceland to face Breidablik on Thursday to defend a 1-0 first-leg lead in the third qualifying round. Hold on and they could face Tottenham, Real Betis or Fiorentina in the play-off round but there is a shadow over their progress to this stage. In the last round Aktobe, who are essentially a state-run club, overcame the Norwegian Cup-winners Hodd. Named after Hodr, a mythological archer, and based in the village of Ulsteinvik in the fjords (population, 5,686), Hodd should have been one of the great fairytales of this year's competition: instead, they went out, insisting they had been cheated.
They won the first leg 1-0 but were prevented from taking their strongest team to Kazakhstan for the return when the Nigerian defender Akeem Latifu and the midfielder Sivert Heltne Nilsen, the son of the manager, Lars Arne Nilsen, were denied visas. They lost 2-0 in Kazakhstan. "I do not know very much and will say little. People can draw their own conclusions, then we will express ours a little later," the manager told TV2.
"What can I say? We have applied for a visa properly, we were told that everything looked good and then suddenly we are told that [the two players] cannot be with us, what do you think about that? It is very strange, we have not received any explanation as to why they cannot go. They know their football at the Kazakh embassy."
The Kazakh embassy has refused to give its reasons for denying the visas but there are suggestions they were taking retaliatory action over Norway's refusal to grant visas to Aktobe's two Uzbekistan internationals, Timur Kapadze and Aleksandr Geynrikh. It also appears that the Kazakh authorities refused visas to the Slovakian refereeing team who were supposed to be taking charge of the second leg, forcing Uefa to appoint a team of Turkish referees instead.
[h=2]Serbia[/h]Vuk Rasovic is under no illusions that he will be judged as Partizan coach, not on domestic results but on what happens in Europe – and that makes their Champions League third-round qualifying tie against Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria vital. As Crvena Zvezda continue their sorry path of self-destruction, the Serbian league has become almost meaningless, something that Partizan simply expect to win. Rasovic only arrived in May and has already picked up one title, their sixth straight championship.
His is a young side and, with four major departures in the summer, one in transition. He admits he is still waiting "for everything to click into place" but also knows that failure to reach at least the play-off round would be a setback. "We were 1-0 up in Razgrad last week when, for some strange and illogical reason, we sat back and left space for them," he said. "We can overturn a 2-1 deficit but we have to be brave and work well together, showing a lot more concentration."
[h=2]Ukraine[/h]As Shakhtar Donetsk look to beat Arsenal and Tottenham to the signing of Bernard from Atlético Mineiro, life goes from bad to worse for Dynamo Kyiv. It is four years since they last won the Ukrainian title and the gulf between them and Shakhtar was clear as they lost an ill-tempered game 3-1 at the Donbass Arena last Sunday to slip five points behind the leaders after four games of the season. "Dynamo are stronger than Shakhtar," the Dutch forward Jeremain Lens insisted. "We just failed to show that today."
That, though, seemed further evidence of the state of denial in which the club finds itself. Dynamo were also furious about the refereeing of Viktor Shvetsov, a piece on the club's website stating there were "half-a-dozen questionable decisions" and pointing in particular to the incident that led to Andriy Yarmolenko suffering a broken leg. Shakhtar's Brazilian forward Taison was not shown a red card for the foul but Yarmolenko had no doubt about the intent. "I'm sure Tyson specifically wanted to cause me a personal injury," he said. "In a challenge for the ball, he raised his leg and thrust the studs into my thigh."
[h=2]Bulgaria[/h]When CSKA Sofia were saved from bankruptcy last month, their new board promised absolute transparency and, true to their word, on Monday they revealed the salaries of their playing and coaching staff. Best paid is the head coach, Stoichko Mladenov, who earns €10,000 a month, while the best-paid players are Valentin Iliev, Emil Gargorov and Apostol Popov, all of whom returned to the club this summer and all of whom earn €7500 a month.
Flotation on the stock market is expected soon, with any money raised to be reinvested in the club. That suggests that under the new owner, Alexander Tomov, CSKA are beginning to find some stability but chaos remains a way of life at the club. Two weeks ago Mladenov called in police after allegedly being attacked at the training ground by the former owner, Kaloyan Stoyanov, apparently in a dispute over a foreign player signed by Stoyanov but released by Mladenov.
- European club football
- Anzhi Makhachkala
- Partizan Belgrade
- CSKA Sofia
- Shakhtar Donetsk
- Dynamo Kyiv
- Transfer window
- Champions League
- Europa League
- Samuel Eto'o
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