Where are they now? Former Chelsea star Yuri Zhirkov

Somewhat of a forgotten man from Chelsea’s Double winning season of 09/10, Yuri Zhirkov is now playing with Chelsea target Willian at Russian moneybags Anzhi Makhachkala.

One of Carlo Ancelotti’s first actions he took as a Chelsea manager in the summer of 2009 was to sign Yuri Zhirkov.

After fighting off fellow European giants Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Chelsea lured Yuri Zhirkov in a 18 million pound deal which let him surpass Andrei Arshavin as the most expensive Russian footballer of all time; this is a title he is deserving of.

Zhirkov was one of the main reasons that Russia surprised everyone at Euro 2008 and made it to the Semi Finals of the competition.

Hw is one of the most technically gifted footballers around, who will deliver the forwards a pinpoint cross almost every single time. Yuri was really dominating the Russian league with CSKA, and he wasn’t called the “Russian Ronaldinho” without  the skills to back it up.

His technique was astonishing and had acceleration that very few defenders were capable of keeping up with; plainly he left them in a daze.

Upon arrival at Chelsea though, he was struck with niggling injuries and he made his Premier League debut off the bench against West Ham in December 2009 in which he very nearly scored. Prior to that his only other appearances for Chelsea were a preseason match against AC Milan where he scored and 60 minutes against QPR in the League Cup.

He really struggled to break into the starting lineup with Florent Malouda in the form of his life and Ashley Cole almost unbeatable at left-back.

Luckily for Zhirkov though, Ashley Cole was to get injured early 2010 and thus begun a run of games for the Russian (including a MOTM performance against Bolton) and became pivotal to what was one of the most successful seasons in the club history.

Chelsea fans and staff had great hopes for Yuri for season 2010/11, however injuries had another idea. Starting the season well and scoring a cracker against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League, he was sidelined for three months with a knee problem and after that numerous small injuries destroyed his season.

Undoubtedly one of the unluckiest Chelsea players, he was sold to Anzhi Makhachkala in 2011 for 13.2 million pounds due to the fact his wife and son could not get a visa in England and his injuries made his time in England unbearable.

Although Yuri is still somewhat dogged by injuries at Anzhi, he is a vital member of the squad with his team lying in second place in the Russian Premier League and reached the round of 16 in the Europa League before being eliminated by Newcastle.

So far he has made around 60 appearances for his current club and is still a regular in the national team frame.

Whilst he isn’t exactly the player he once was, Yuri Zhirkov is still on his day one of the best wingers in the world. Unfortunately thanks to injuries and a hefty price tag many people in England will sadly remember him as a huge flop.

image: © mollyig

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