Russian internationals Igor Denisov and Aleksandr Kerzhakov have been sent to train with Zenit’s reservists due to their dissatisfaction with the club’s 80-million-euro purchase of Hulk and Axel Witsel.
Zenit haven’t won any of their three games since the very expensive rookies arrived in St. Petersburg, including a 3-0 hammering at the hands Malaga in the Champions League mid-week.
“Some of the players want the situation in the club to be nervous – for no worthy reason,” Luciano Spalletti, Zenit coach, confessed after his team’s 2-2 draw at Krylia Sovetov on Saturday. “It’s sad because the whole team suffers from this stupidity. We can’t close our eyes on this problem as we’re losing because of it.”
“Zenit is a serious club, which can’t progress without attracting new players,” he added. “It’s the only way to grow and reach new heights. We haven’t bought anybody serious for the last four transfer windows and now we’re blamed for recruiting new strong footballers. I don’t understand it.”
Spalletti didn’t name those whose “stupidity” is causing Zenit problems, but the journalists were quick to learn that he was speaking about Igor Denisov above all.
The irreplaceable defensive midfielder, who recently became the captain of the Russian national squad, didn’t appear on the pitch in Samara, telling the coach that he doesn’t feel capable of helping the team.
“Igor Denisov has been demanding a pay rise since spring despite having one of the biggest salaries in the club and in the whole Russian Premier League,” an unnamed source within Zenit told Fontanka.ru. “He thinks he’s worth more, but those claims don’t attract sympathy from the club’s administration.”
Zenit’s purchase of foreign stars – instead of increasing his salary – became the last straw for Denisov, whose contract in St. Pete expires in three years.
The 28-year-old’s demands are backed by the other Russian internationals within the team – Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Vladimir Bystrov, Aleksandr Anyukov and Roman Shirokov.
“One can’t afford to throw away such players like Denisov,” Shirokov told Sport-Express newspaper.
Meanwhile, Hulk’s adaptation in Zenit is going quite well as the Brazilian striker opened his scoring account in Russia in the match against Krylia.
Witsel has so far been unable to show what he’s got as he is suffering from a knee injury and only appeared on the pitch once as a sub.