Vladimir Bystrov Returns To Zenit St. Petersburg After Four-Year Hiatus

Sergey ZikovSenior Analyst IAugust 28, 2009

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - JUNE 10: Vladimir Bystrov of Russia in action during the UEFA EURO 2008 Group D match between Spain and Russia at Stadion Tivoli Neu on June 10, 2008 in Innsbruck, Austria.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

When Vladimir Bystrov left Zenit in 2005, the move left many supporters incredibly confused.

It wasn't so much that Bystrov had moved on after playing his entire career to date in St. Petersburg. It wasn't so much that he was a local lad. It wasn't even that he was consistently the best player on the field for Zenit.

He was sold to archrival Spartak Moscow.

Wonder, shock, even anger flooded command. How could they do this?

But four years later, Maxim Mitrofanov has attempted to correct the mistake made in 2005, by bringing the speedy midfielder back home. Bystrov signed a deal for five years, that would keep him in the Northern Capital until summer of 2014.

In a statement to www.fc-zenit.ru, Mitrofanov admits that Zenit made a mistake in selling him to an enemy. But he also said that Bystrov had also expressed a desire to return back to Zenit. A first attempt in 2006 to bring him home failed, but this time around, the price was right.

"Bullet Bystrov" will join Zenit but it is unknown whether he will be available to play at Khimki on Sunday. He will wear squad No. 34, and replace 32-year-old midfielder Fernando Ricksen on the roster, who was released shortly after the move was made to return Bystrov.

For many though, they question this move as well. Bystrov is certainly a fine player and is one of the fastest players in Europe.


Why bring him back now? Couldn't the nine million Euros have been put to bringing in a skilled striker instead? The fact is, that Zenit has an incredibly deep midfield already and will only get deeper when Danny returns from injury in a month or so.

Are they planning on fielding a 4-6-0? With Igor Semshov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Igor Denisov, Szabolcs Huszti, Roman Shirokov, Alessandro Rosina, Radek Sirl and Danny all at midfield, where on Earth does Bystrov fit in? He's no striker.

If the last week has been any indication, the squad as a whole is aging and feeling the effects of playing too much.

For two of the older midfielders, Zyryanov and Semshov, both have basically been playing twice a week for the past month. With Europa League competition, Russian Premier League play, and national team service, neither of these veterans have had a minute of rest.

Not that they complain about it.

But especially in recent matches against CD Nacional and Lokomotiv Moscow, both have looked out of gas. But who else can bring the skill and precision that they do to the field?

Vladimir Bystrov.

Besides bringing incredible speed, something that Zenit lacks on the whole, Bystrov can relieve either one when needed and not lose anything on the pitch. It can be said that a team is only as good as their bench. Zenit now not only has one of the most talented starting 11 in the Russian Premier League, but its deepest bench too.

Bystrov would be an ideal second-half player, who could come on in favor of either Zyryanov or Semshov after halftime and reek havic on tired defenses.

In a league that enforces the 6/5 Rule, having another skilled Russian-born player on the roster is a gigantic help, especially Zenit recently lost Pavel Pogrebnyak to Stuttgart. And maybe most importantly, Zenit know exactly what they are getting with this transfer.

He not only grew up in front with Zenit, but has played well against Zenit while with Spartak.

In other transfer news, Zenit has apparently set its sights on Chelsea outcast Andriy Shevchenko once more, confident that they will bring the former Ballon d'Or recipient to St. Petersburg. They are also willing to outbid other clubs, including Shevchenko's first club Dynamo Kiev. 

Now about Alessandro Rosina and the whole starting 11 thing...