MOSCOW, June 5 (Reuters) - Russia captain Andrei Arshavin is counting on a good showing at Euro 2012 to revive his flagging club career.
The striker, 31, rejoined former club Zenit St Petersburg on loan from Arsenal in February following a turbulent year at the London club.
After excelling for the first couple of seasons in the English Premier League, which included the astonishing achievement of scoring all four goals for Arsenal in a 4-4 draw with Liverpool in 2009, Arshavin has struggled to break into Arsenal’s first team.
Many pundits at home and abroad have questioned his desire, work ethic and commitment to the game. Many others think he looks ridiculous sticking his tongue out after scoring a goal.
Worse, his once loyal followers, who initially enjoyed his interesting observations on life on Twitter, turned against him.
Arsenal supporters booed the Russian when he came on as a substitute in January’s 2-1 league defeat by Manchester United.
Faced with the prospect of spending the rest of the season on the Arsenal bench, the St Petersburg native had little choice but to move home while the transfer window in Russia was open.
Fortunately for Arshavin, Zenit - the club he led to the Russian league title in 2007 and the UEFA Cup triumph the following year - came to the rescue, signing him on a three-month loan deal just minutes before the deadline.
“A chance to play again was the only reason why I decided to come back home,” Arshavin, once dubbed the “Golden Boy” of Russian football, told local media.
“But I would love to return to Arsenal. My family feels comfortable in London, my kids go to school there and each of us is very happy living in London.”
With his club career in limbo, Arshavin’s international future clouded as the Euros approached.
His scoring touch had deserted him - he had failed to find the net for Russia for more than two years before finally ending the drought in a 2-0 win over Denmark in February’s friendly.
Some experts dared to call for coach Dick Advocaat to drop the once indispensable Arshavin from Russia’s Euro 2012 squad - an unthinkable scenario just a few months ago.
However, Advocaat, who has known Arshavin since their days together at Zenit, has kept faith with his leading player.
“Arshavin’s place in the team was never in question,” the Dutchman told reporters. “He’s our leader on and off the pitch.”
Arshavin was a revelation at Euro 2008, winning acclaim for his creative play, cunning moves and scoring prowess.
The slightly-built striker helped transform a drab and defensive Russia into an attractive attacking side that defied the odds and reached the semi-finals for their best showing in a major championship in 20 years.
He was voted into the tournament’s All-Star team and became a national hero almost overnight.
Arshavin quickly became Russia’s highest-paid player and, with his boyish-looking face gracing the cover of numerous glossy magazines, he also earned a fortune from endorsements.
When Arsenal paid 15 million pounds ($21.35 million) to sign Arshavin in February 2009 following protracted negotiations, it seemed like a wise investment.
Arshavin quickly became a favourite with Arsenal fans before his popularity waned. Russia’s fans would like nothing better than to see Arshavin rediscover his form this summer. (Editing by Tim Collings/Dave Thompson)