MOSCOW (Reuters) - A summer move to Zenit St. Petersburg and a new national head coach transformed Artem Dzyuba from outspoken international outcast to the spearhead of Russia’s Euro 2016 campaign.
The 27-year-old striker has long struggled to deliver on early promise amid suggestions of a difficult personality. Some took offence at his wit and former coach Fabio Capello ignored him altogether for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil even though he had scored 17 league goals for Rostov that season.
The arrival of Leonid Slutskiy as the Italian’s replacement changed Dzyuba’s international fortunes and the player responded to being first choice by scoring eight goals as Russia booked their place in Euro 2016.
Part of the credit for Dzyuba’s transformation must go to Andre Villas-Boas, who signed him for Zenit to end the cycle of what seemed like endless loan moves from Spartak Moscow.
Dzyuba clearly feels valued by his club and international managers and the goals have flowed. For someone so tall, at 1.96 metres, he has excellent technical ability and is a fine finisher.
There are sill signs of his old cockiness, however, and Dzyuba celebrated his 100th career goal last month by taking off his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the writing “Only 100”.
In France he will hope to add to this tally. “I hope I haven’t lost all my bullets,” he said recently.
Editing by Neil Robinson