Denisov Recants, Rejoins Team

Denisov Recants, Rejoins Team

Published: November 7, 2012 (Issue # 1734)


Igor Denisov (r) , a key player for Zenit FC, has returned to play for the club’s first team after a break of over a month.

After weeks of speculation, the drawn-out conflict between Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Igor Denisov and the club’s management has come to a close. The player admitted to being the guilty party in the dispute, and committed his future to the club in a public address published Thursday.

“It took time for me to understand what had happened. I acted wrongly in that situation and let my emotions get the better of me, and thus was not able to help my teammates to fulfill the expectations of our dedicated fans. I have a running contract, which I must and want to fulfill until its end.”

The feud was sparked Sept. 22, when the Russian player demanded that his contract be renegotiated before he would continue to play for the team, citing the salary of Zenit’s new Brazilian striker Hulk, who broke Russian transfer records in his headline-grabbing arrival from FC Porto Sept. 3. Denisov was promptly demoted from the team’s main squad and barred from participating in Russian Premier League games by an impervious club management.

Denisov added fuel to the fire in a frank interview to news daily Sport Express, in which he justified his actions as defending the interests of the Russian players of Zenit’s squad, who he said were being disrespected by the club after the sudden financial inequality.

While the ostracized player languished in the reserve squad and refused to fulfill the only condition set by the club for his return to grace — a public apology for his conduct — the team’s performances continued to plummet, beginning with a Sept. 14 home defeat to FC Terek Grozny.

In the six games that followed the arrival of Hulk and fellow 40 million euro ($51m) signing Axel Witsel at Zenit, the team recorded just one victory while suffering three defeats, two of which were in crucial Champions League ties.

The nosedive in performances and inability to come to an agreement with the team’s long-standing leader Denisov led to speculation about team unity, and even the future of Zenit’s Italian coach, Luciano Spalletti.

In response to the allegations Sept. 27, Spalletti said: “I will show you that I was right [in choosing to remain with Zenit]. I am Zenit’s coach, and especially at this moment of great difficulty for the team, I will remain and continue to work for the club.”

Another scandal erupted in mid-October after an inquiry by the Auditing Committee into the projected cost of Zenit’s new stadium revealed a 20 billion ruble discrepancy between the project’s cost according to the contractor and the cost according to the Chief State Construction Inspectorate. The head of the city’s construction committee, Vyacheslav Semenenko, was fired amid allegations of corruption.

However, a recent turnaround in fortunes has seen the team record six successive victories in all competitions. Denisov returned to the field for Friday’s 2-1 home victory against FC Rostov, with Zenit’s Portugese winger Miguel Danny also making his first appearance after nursing an injury since February.

In the post-match press conference, Spalletti explained the team’s current state:

“When you go through such a difficult, unusual period, such as the one that we have experienced, it’s not easy to regain such intricate elements as team spirit, balance, and enthusiasm.”

Zenit was due to play a crucial Champions League return game against Belgian team R.C.S. Anderlecht in Brussels on Tuesday evening.

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