Football is sometimes called ‘chess in action,’ and nobody on Russia’s Euro 2012 squad knows more about how the two sports intervene than the team’s harshest player, Igor Denisov.
Full name: Igor Vladimirovich Denisov
Club: Zenit Saint Petersburg
Caps for Russia: 23
Goals for Russia: 0
Igor Denisov is tough, and that’s possibly the main quality required for a successful defensive midfielder.
He never stops fighting on the pitch, going into one sliding tackle after another, and topping taller opponents in aerial battles, despite being 1.76 meters tall.
And that’s the reason for Igor’s great constancy, as it’s pretty hard to remember him having a failed match.
No wonder the 28-year-old demands the same attitude towards the game from his teammates and gets famously upset when he doesn’t see one.
Denisov began his career at Zenit along with Andrey Arshavin, and they were great friends back then.
But this season, Denisov and a group other players demanded his former mate, who returned to St. Pete on loan from Arsenal, to be removed from the squad.
According to the press, Arshavin was accused of a superiority complex and lack (or even absolute absence) of dedication.
“I knew from the very beginning that nothing good would come out of Arshavin’s return to Zenit,” Vladimir Abramov, one of Russia’s top football agents, told Gorod 812 magazine. “Igor Denisov has gained too much weight in the team recently. And he’s a guy with some character and wouldn’t want to share his power.”
Denisov’s character is well known in the Russian football world. Once, he nearly started a brawl with Zenit’s team director, Vladislav Radimov – and the incident received wide publicity as it happened during a training session open for the media.
In 2010, the midfielder was banned for four games by the Russian Premier League for “aggressive and abusive behavior, expressed in the humiliation of dignity of the representatives of Spartak Moscow and their head coach, Valery Karpin, and the subsequent provocation of conflict between the two teams.”
Igor has had to pay a price for his temper in the international arena as well. To be more precise, it cost him the European bronze medal.
Zenit won the UEFA Cup in 2008, with – the rarely scoring – Denisov capitalizing on Arshavin’s assist to grab the winning goal in the final against Glasgow Rangers.
Russia’s coach Guus Hiddink, of course, saw him on the country’s Euro 2008 squad, but the player refused to come. It’s hard to say why – maybe he was just in a bad mood when the invitation came.
The differences were settled only at the start of the World Cup 2010 qualifying phase, with Denisov debuting for Russia in an away clash against Germany in October 2008.
And he remained on the national squad under Dick Advocaat, making seven appearances for his country on the way to Euro 2012.
“I disagree with those who say that Russia’s performance at Euro 2018 was such a huge success,” Denisov told Sovetsky Sport newspaper. “It’s not cool to lose to Spain 7-1 in two games. That’s my opinion. But our footballers were still treated like heroes. If go to Euro 2012 now, grab third or fourth place there, but lose to someone 7-1 in two games – I’ll be disappointed.”
“I’m going there to win. I don’t know how it turns out. Maybe won’t even qualify form our group, but we're going there aiming for victory,” he added.
There’s another interesting fact about Denisov that deserves attention, as he has a secret weapon, helping him read the opponents’ attacks like an open book.
He’s very fond of chess and is, actually, pretty good at it. Igor even played grandmaster Petr Svidler, who’s a Zenit fan, and managed to get one draw in three matches.
The five-time Russian chess champion described Denisov as “an advanced amateur.” Let’s hope football experts label him “an advanced pro” after his display at Euro 2012.
Dmitry Gorshkov, RT