Earlier today, Insidefutbol.com reported that Chelsea midfielder Yuri Zhirkov may be on his way out of Stamford Bridge. News suggested that Zhirkov spent last night completing arrangements for his sale to Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala for £13.2m.
He arrived in West London in the summer of 2009 for a reported fee of £18m. Three million more than his Arsenal had spent for Andre Arshavin earlier that year, making Zhirkov the most expensive Russian player ever.
In two years with the club under former boss Carlo Ancelotti, Zhirkov struggled to find regular playing time as he only made 48 appearances in that span, and many as a sub. This preseason he had shared as much time on the pitch as any of his teammates, but must have failed to impress Ander Villa-Boas in light of this move.
It was always difficult expectations for him to come in and bump either Ashely Cole or Florent Malouda out of their starting spots. This move was probably as much his idea than anyone's:
"Unfortunately, at Chelsea I haven't had enough match practice in the last season," he told reporters. "I want to play football and not to sit on the bench."
With Euros less than a year away, it is necessary for him to have adequate playing time in the 2011/12 season if he is to make the squad. Abramovich may have had his hand as much int the move to get him to Anzhi Makhachkala as he did in bringing him to Chelsea for the same nationalistic reasons.
Losing Zhirkov will not disrupt the balance of the team or leave a gaping hole in the Chelsea line up. But it will need to be replaced by someone. Here are five potential players who could fill Zhirkov's shoes.