CSKA Moskvaâ€™s 18-year-old playmaker recently made his international debut and is in the midst of establishing himself as Russiaâ€™s brightest prospect.
Russia is well known for bringing young talent through in all sports. This is illustrated every four years at the Olympic Games, in tennis and of course in the Russian Premier League. Thanks to the many oligarchs pumping huge amounts of money into the domestic game there has been much emphasis placed on youth in recent years.
One such example is CSKA Moscowâ€™s 18-year-old attacking midfield playmaker Alan Dzagoev. His football career began in his home town of Beslan, where at the age of 10, his immense talent was recognized and he started playing for the team he supported, Vladikavkaz.
His first real taste of professional football came with FC Krylia Sovetov-SOK of the second division where he played in season 2006 and for half of 2007, playing 37 matches and scoring six goals at the tender age of 16.
In December 2007, CSKA Moskva, probably the biggest club in Russia, landed the young prospect. At first the club from the Russian capital only started Dzagoev in cup matches and in league matches as a substitute. The youngster was an integral member of the CSKA side that won the Russian Cup in 2007/8, scoring in the quarter-final, semi-final and final.
The current season has seen Dzagoev make great strides in his development and he has risen to the challenge. In 17 matches, he has scored eight goals and provided five assists. In a sign that Dzagoev is not afraid to mix it with his more experienced opponents, the 18-year-old has also received a red card and three yellows in his first season of top-flight football.
Dzagoevâ€™s partnership with Wagner Love, playing just behind the Brazilian striker, has been one of the highlights of the Russian season and is the main reason why CSKA are the only team who can realistically challenge Rubin Kazan at the top of the table.
Alan Dzageov is a modern playmaker who can also defend and move all around the pitch. He has unbelievable technique and great passing ability, can read the game and on many occasions sees play before it actually happens. For his age he is quite strong and well built and has great pace and acceleration. Whilst his heading ability is average this is expected to improve with experience.
Following some superb performances for CSKA Moskva during 2008, along with the support of the Russian public, Guus Hiddink called up the playmaker to his squad for the recent World Cup qualifiers. Dzagoev was a half-time substitute in the 2-1 defeat to Germany and was integral to Russiaâ€™s comeback in the game, as Hiddinkâ€™s side dominated after going two-down early in the match. In the process Dzagoev set a new record of being the youngest player ever to play for the Russian national team at the age of 18 and 116 days.
It is difficult to predict how Dzagoevâ€™s career will progress; thanks to the huge amounts of money in the Russian game it may be difficult for a big European club to prise him away from CSKA. According to the IMScouting database his contract runs out in 2011, much will likely depend on the ambition of the player himself.
What seems abundantly clear about Dzagoev is his love for the game itself. Igor Rodkin, who was Dzagoev’s coach at FC Krylia Sovetov-SOK, recently commented that â€œDzagoev plays football not for fame and money, but because, football is his life. It is rare today that a victory is more important for a player, then the prize-money for it. But Alan – is exactly that case.â€
(Video evidence of Alan Dzagoev can be seen here. After this article was written, Dzagoev scored twice in CSKA Moscow’s 3-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna in the UEFA Cup, goals from that match can be seen here.)