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Chelsea Swoop for Russian Star Yuri Zhirkov

7/7/2009
Chelsea have moved to sign CSKA’s Russian international Yuri Zhirkov.

The 25 year old has signed a four-year deal and will cost the London club £18 million.

The signing comes just days into new manager Carlo Ancelotti’s reign at Stamford Bridge and, according to the club’s hierarchy, Zhirkov is the first of three major transfers this close-season – not including the acquisitions of Daniel Sturridge and Ross Turnbull, which had already been completed.

Zhirkov is one of the stars of the current Russian squad led by former Chelsea manager Gus Hiddink and has been capped 31 times. He can play anywhere down the left flank and is just as comfortable at full-back or as a winger.

There is absolutely no doubt over Zhirkov’s talent as a player and he was selected on a 30-man shortlist for the prestigious Ballon d’Or, awarded to Europe’s top player. However, despite the attributes he brings to Chelsea there are question marks over the wisdom of this transfer.

£18 million is a huge amount of money to be paying for someone who is essentially a utility player and someone who is certainly not a guaranteed a place in the first team. Ashley Cole has been revitalised in recent months and is undisputedly the club’s first choice left back and therefore Zhirkov will have to vie for a left wing spot with an in-form Florent Malouda and an improving Solomon Kalou. If he was bought as a back-up, his transfer fee seems significantly inflated.

Furthermore, the Zhirkov deal has evidently been in place for a number of weeks, long before the appointment of Ancelotti as manager. Indeed, the transfer seems to have been sanctioned by club owner Roman Abramovich. Chelsea have certainly learned in recent years that interference from the owner is not healthy for the stability of the club, with Jose Mourinho, Chelsea’s most successful manager, previously forced out of the door.

Chelsea have also been linked with a number of other marquee signings this summer, most notably Franck Ribery, Andrea Pirlo and Carlos Tevez. However, it is unlikely that any of these targets will be playing at Stamford Bridge this season, with Ribery favouring a move to Spain, Pirlo wishing to remain at Milan and Tevez agreeing to Join Manchester City.

Dan Stephens
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