Player to watch: Andrei Arshavin

Russia captain Andrei Arshavin is counting on a good showing at Euro 2012 to revive his sagging club career.


The forward, who will turn 31 a week before the tournament starts, rejoined former club Zenit St Petersburg on loan from Arsenal in February following a turbulent year at the London club.

After excelling for the first couple of years in the Premier League - including his astonishing achievement of scoring all four goals for Arsenal in a 4-4 draw with Liverpool in 2009 - Arshavin struggled to break into Arsenal's first team this season.

Many pundits at home and abroad have questioned his desire, work ethic and commitment to the game. Worse, his once loyal followers, who initially enjoyed his interesting observations on life on his official website, turned against him.

Arsenal supporters booed the Russian when he came on as a substitute in January's 2-1 league defeat by Manchester United.

Faced with the prospect of spending the rest of the season on the Arsenal bench, the St Petersburg native had little choice but to move home while the transfer window in Russia was open.

Fortunately for Arshavin, Zenit - the club he led to the Russian league title in 2007 and the UEFA Cup triumph the following year - came to the rescue, signing him on a three-month loan deal just minutes before the deadline.

"A chance to play again was the only reason why I decided to come back home," Arshavin, once dubbed the 'Golden Boy' of Russian football, told local media.

"But I would love to return to Arsenal. My family feels comfortable in London, my kids go to school there and each of us is very happy living in London."

With his club career in limbo, Arshavin's international future clouded as the Euros approached.

His scoring touch had deserted him - he had failed to find the net for Russia for more than two years before finally ending the drought by notching his team's second goal in a 2-0 win over Denmark in February's friendly.

Some experts dared to call for coach Dick Advocaat to drop the once indispensable Arshavin from Russia's Euro 2012 squad - an unthinkable scenario just a few months ago.

"Personally, I think that he doesn't deserve a place on the national team based on his current form," wrote former Soviet international Yevgeny Lovchev, now a newspaper columnist and one of Arshavin's fiercest critics.

However, Advocaat, who has known Arshavin since their days together at Zenit, has kept faith with his leading player.

"Arshavin's place in the team was never in question," the Dutchman told reporters. "He's our leader on and off the pitch."

Arshavin was a revelation at Euro 2008, winning acclaim for his creative play, cunning moves and scoring prowess.

The slightly-built forward helped transform a drab and defensive Russia into an attractive attacking side that defied the odds and reached the semi-finals for their best showing in a major championship in 20 years.

Arshavin quickly became Russia's highest-paid player and, with his boyish-looking face gracing the cover of numerous glossy magazines, he also earned a fortune from endorsements.

When Arsenal paid £15 million pounds to sign Arshavin in February 2009 following protracted negotiations, it seemed like a wise investment.

Arshavin quickly became a favourite with Arsenal fans, especially after scoring all four of his team's goals in the 4-4 draw against Liverpool in April 2009 to become the first player to achieve such a feat in a league match at Anfield since 1946.

Russia's fans would like nothing better than to see Arshavin rediscover that kind of form this summer in Poland and Ukraine.

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