MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested on Thursday that the presence of foreign players in the domestic soccer league is hindering the development of local talent as Russia gears up to host the World Cup finals next year.
"Little attention is paid to the development of children's and youth soccer," Putin said during his annual call-in show broadcast on state television.
The Russian leader said international football experts had told him that the national team's failures could be linked to "too many foreign players" and "too little attention paid to preparing substitutes".
The Russian Premier League currently does not allow more than six foreign players per team on the pitch at any time.
Putin insisted that there were "positive trends" in Russian soccer, including the creation of a youth academy by Russian businessman Sergey Galitskiy in the southern city of Krasnodar.
Russia this month slipped to a record low 63rd in the FIFA world rankings.
The country will showcase four of its 12 World Cup venues during the Confederations Cup, a two-week tournament kicking off Saturday that will feature the home country, defending World Cup champions Germany and the winners of FIFA confederations.
(Reporting by Moscow Newsroom; editing by Maria Kiselyova/Mark Heinrich)