Time right for Arshavin to move, says Russia coach Hiddink


Basel : Russia coach Guus Hiddink believes his star striker Andrei Arshavin should play in a top European league after Euro 2008.

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Arshavin, 27, helped Zenit St Petersburg to win the UEFA Cup last season and has excelled against Sweden and the Netherlands after missing the first two games of the tournament through suspension.

All but one of the 23-man Russia squad play their club football in Russia, but Hiddink said Monday: “I think some players can survive and make a contribution to the big leagues in Europe.”

Arshavin, who was majestic in Russia’s 3-1 extra-time win over the Netherlands in Saturday’s quarter-final, has attracted the biggest plaudits. Reports say Barcelona and Arsenal are in the running for the star.

“Of course, the role models are good for Russian football also, but nowadays the world of football and information is so open,” Hiddink said.

“It is also good for him, maybe not for his club, to go and try to make a step to a big, big league, which is nice to see.”

Hiddink said he selected him for the Euro 2008 squad, despite Arshavin being suspended for the first two group matches, because he knew he could make a difference.

“An average player in the same circumstances, having a two-game suspension, I wouldn’t have selected him, but we knew he has some extra quality, and we hoped to be still in charge (of our destiny) in the Sweden game and that’s why I selected him.”

Shown a photograph of Arshavin celebrating after scoring one of Russia’s two extra-time goals against the Dutch, Hiddink said: “He is showing the world he can do it and we can do it.

“He is not a selfish player. He can go into the defence with the ball at his feet. He is very accessible and very good to work with. All the big players are special, and I love to work with these special players because deep inside they like to play, but they like to win as well.”

Arshavin refused to speak to the media attending Russia’s training session at Rankhof Stadium in Basle, and waiting journalists were told by an official that the player does not give interviews.

Hiddink, meanwhile, has fitness concerns on striker Ivan Saenko, midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and defender Aleksander Anyukov, who are all nursing ankle injuries, ahead of Thursday’s semi-final against Spain in Vienna.