RPL Summer Transfer Window: Meet the newcomers

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After the Russian transfer window slammed shut last week, we decided to cast our eye over the key transfers of players to join the Russian Premier Liga this summer.

Claudinho (RB Bragantino to Zenit)

St. Petersburg will have a samba beat this season after Zenit completed the signing of Brazilian playmaker Claudinho from Red Bull Bragantino. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder finished the previous Brazilian Serie A campaign as the competition’s top scorer with 18 goals, as well as lifting the Bola de Ouro player of the year award. This summer he featured heavily alongside new teammate Malcom for his country’s Olympic side as they won the gold medal in Tokyo before arriving in Russia. 

Alexis Beka Beka (SM Caen to Lokomotiv)

Another Olympian to join the RPL is young French midfielder Alexis Beka Beka. Although the 20-year-old has just one full senior season under his belt after becoming a regular for SM Caen in France’s second-tier Ligue 2, Beka Beka played in every match for his country in Tokyo. He has signed a long-term contract at the club and has already made his brief debut, as well as his first start on matchday seven.

Faustino Anjorin (Chelsea to Lokomotiv - loan, with option to buy)

Lokomotiv’s recruitment drive has focused largely on youth, and there is huge excitement over the capture of Anjorin given the high regard he is held in by his parent club. Anjorin played most of the 1-1 Champions League draw against Krasnodar at Stamford Bridge just over a year ago out wide, but has the potential to play across the attacking line. Still only 19, a big clue about the role he is likely to play arrived when Lokomotiv legend Dmitry Loskov graciously granted Anjorin permission to wear his famous number 10 shirt, which had been retired in Loskov’s honour. After David Bentley’s sojourn for Rostov almost a decade ago, he is also only the second Englishman to play in the RPL.

Gyrano Kerk (Utrecht to Lokomotiv)

With injury concerns to key attacking players such as Anton Miranchuk and Ze Luis, it made sense for the Railroaders to bolster their forwards - step forward Dutch flier Gyrano Kerk. After nearly a decade at Dutch club Utrecht, where the free-scoring winger was involved in almost a goal every two games (42 goals and 43 assists in 175 matches), Kerk takes the number 7 shirt for Lokomotiv. 

Anders Dreyer (Midtjylland to Rubin)

Leonid Slutsky has been boosted by the arrival of two young wingers with European experience; the first is Danish under-21 international Anders Dreyer, who has already played three times in the Champions League qualifiers this season for Midtjylland. Russia is the fifth country the 23-year-old has played in already, after a move to Brighton didn’t quite take off with loan spells to Scottish side St. Mirren and Dutch outfit Heerenveen before his return to his homeland just over 18 months ago.

Sead Haksabanovic (Norrkoping to Rubin)

Rubin’s second well-travelled young winger is Montenegro international Sead Haksabanovic. The former West Ham player has played almost every minute since arriving at the start of the season, scoring once and setting up one more. Unfortunately he had the heartbreak of missing the crucial last-minute extra-time penalty at home to Rakow that saw Europa Conference League qualification slip through his new club’s fingers, but he brings a huge amount of confidence and experience with him, even at his tender age. Twenty-one goals and 23 assists in 76 matches for Norrkoping suggest a lively impact.

Victorien Angban (FC Metz to Sochi)

Sochi have pulled off a coup by bringing in Ivorian international Victorien Angban to strengthen their midfield. His pedigree speaks for itself; as a 15-year-old he was spotted by Chelsea’s scouting system and invited over as a trialist before officially joining their youth system three years later. Herve Renard handed him his full international debut just after his 18th birthday, before four loan spells in Belgium, Spain and France earned him a permanent move to Metz. Angban has featured 11 times already for Sochi, playing at least some part in every match.

Diego Laxalt (AC Milan to Dynamo)

Dynamo Moscow have thrust themselves right into the serious title race contenders with a more experienced back line after recruiting Uruguayan international Diego Laxalt from AC Milan. The left-back had spent a slightly frustrating season on loan in the Scottish Premiership with Glasgow giants Celtic as his side were edged out in the title race by Rangers and knocked out of domestic cups and the Europa League early on. However, his experience is clear after 170 Serie A appearances in Italy and 25 caps for his country, and so far he hasn’t missed a single minute of Dynamo’s RPL campaign.

Fabian Balbuena (West Ham to Dynamo)

Alongside Laxalt is the commanding figure of Fabian Balbuena, who boasts further Latin American international experience with 17 caps for Paraguay, not to mention over 60 games in the English Premier League for West Ham. During a two-year spell in the gruelling Brazilian Serie A championship, he was crowned champion in 2017. Before the September break Balbuena played every minute of Dynamo’s RPL campaign but after coming back from the national team did not participate in the fixture vs Niznhy Novgorod.

Jhon Cordoba (Hertha Berlin to Krasnodar)

There is little question who Krasnodar’s talisman has been so far this season: the Bulls’ marquee signing, Jhon Cordoba. After plundering goals in Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Germany, the Colombian striker has stormed into the RPL with five goals and two assists in his first six appearances after his move from the Bundesliga and looks set to battle it out for the top goalscorer’s crown. 

Egas Cacintura (Novaya Generatsiya Syktyvkar futsal club to Ufa)

It is probably fair to say that Ufa pulled off the most unexpected transfer of the summer by luring Angolan midfielder Cacintura from futsal and converting him to the 11-a-side game. His path to the top flight has been unique to say the least; as a teenager he moved to Russia to study oil engineering at Kuban University, where he joined the student futsal team. He then moved up to the northern town of Syktyvkar to turn professional while still studying remotely, before being offered the chance to transition to the full-size game. So far he has adapted well, playing seven RPL matches and assisting one goal for Ufa.

Rodrigo (Gil Vicente to Sochi)

With a European campaign to deal with, Sochi reinforced sensibly by bringing in Brazilian centre-back Rodrigo to complement the defence, and within 10 minutes of his Europa Conference League debut he had opened his account with a firm headed goal. Although Sochi sadly bowed out in agonising fashion on penalties away to historic continental giants Partizan Belgrade, Rodrigao has played virtually every minute as his new side have risen to second in the RPL table.

Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen to Lokomotiv Moscow)

With one Croatian defensive lynchpin departing in the shape of Lokomotiv modern stalwart Vedran Corluka, a gap needed to be filled - so his countryman Tin Jedvaj was brought in from Bayer Leverkusen. Both were member of the 2018 World Cup runners up squad, with Jedvaj playing the full game against Iceland in the group stages. Still only 25 years old, he has picked up 26 international caps as well as starring in Serie A and the Bundesliga. Since coming off the bench for his debut against Ufa, he has played every minute for Lokomotiv.

Akos Kecskes (FC Lugano to Nizhny Novgorod)

Breaking into the Russian Premier Liga for the first time in a club’s history can be daunting, especially holding out against the higher quality of attacking threat week in week out. To help combat this, Aleksandr Kerzhakov brought in Hungarian international defender Akos Kecskes - and the move appears to be minor masterstroke so far. Although Nizhny Novgorod lost, Kecskes scored on his debut. Kecskes spent the best part of eight years on Atalanta’s books - with the last three of them on loan at other clubs - and finally broke into the Hungarian national team setup last year, spending both matches against Russia in the UEFA Nations League on the bench before picking up three caps.

Besard Sabovic (Kayserispor to Khimki)

Once again, Khimki raided the Swedish market to pick up a young potential gem by signing Besard Sabovic to join compatriot Filip Dagerstal. After spending his entire career in Swedish football, including representing Sweden at youth levels from under-15s to under-19s, Sabovic moved to Kayserispor earlier this year. Unusually, he has represented two nations at the same age group; after opting to represent North Macedonia - the country of his birth - three times, he reverted back to represent the country he developed in. He played a part in all of the first six matchdays, setting up Ilya Kukharchuk for Khimki’s only winning goal this season away to Krasnodar.

Mateo Cassierra (Belenenses SAD to Sochi)

Having lost their second-highest scorer from last season in Anton Zabolotny to CSKA Moscow, Sochi were in need of reinforcements up front. Mateo Cassierra arrives with an impressive grounding in the game; after breaking through into the Deportivo Cali senior side five years ago, he earned himself a big move to Ajax. Loan spells for Racing Club in Argentina and Groningen in the Netherlands didn’t quite take off, but at Belenenses he settled into a first-choice role, scoring 15 goals in 70 matches.

Darko Todorovic (Red Bull Salzburg to Akhmat)

After Maksim Nenakhov’s departure to Lokomotiv Moscow, Akhmat moved to bring in some outside experience in his place at full-back in the shape of Darko Todorovic. The 24-year-old Bosnian international has 15 caps already, and is instantly an interesting capture given his capture by the Red Bull scouting network three years ago. Since then he has spent time on loan in Germany with Holstein Kiel and with Croatian giants Hajduk Split, and has made his RPL debut already.

Maximiliano Caufriez (Sint Truiden to Spartak)

Belgian defender Maximiliano Cufriez has joined Rui Vitoria’s side to offer cover for the long-term injury to Pavel Maslov, and challenge for a starting place. While his CV doesn’t boast the biggest names in European football, his track record as a consistent top-flight performer suggests he will be a very shrewd bit of business. A grounding in the youth academies of Anderlecht and Standard Liege is as good as it gets in his native Belgium - glimpses of his self-assurance and composure were evident even in his brief cameo debut on matchday seven against Khimki.

Glenn Bijl (FC Emmen to Krylia Sovetov)

It isn’t every day a long-time regular in the Dutch top-flight arrives in Samara, so there are high hopes for Glenn Bijl to add the calmness in defence that will undoubtedly be key in their bid to stay in the RPL. After earning promotion to the Eredivisie in his first season at FC Emmen, Bijl was an ever-present in the Emmen starting line-up, chipping in with a decent return of assists despite his defensive position. 


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