After Starfelt: 3 Russian Premier League talents for Celtic to keep tabs on

By Euan Davidson

September 4, 2021

After Celtic signed Carl Starfelt from Russian Premier League outfit Rubin Kazan, it’s easy to wonder if we’re not looking at the right markets.

Whatever you’ve made of Starfelt so far (we’re relatively convinced he’ll come good), it’s a market we haven’t tapped into very often. If anything, big names have gone the other way. Star man Aiden McGeady signed for Spartak Moscow in 2010 [Guardian].

But with the Bhoys casting their nets wider these days, it makes sense to look at Russia. A country that big, that qualifies for tournaments on a regular basis, must have plenty of talent. Sure, the heyday of Zenit St Petersburg is long past, and the brief Anzhi Makhachkala experiment went awry.

Still, there have to be some names for Celtic to look at, right? Turns out, yes. And we’ve picked out three who are starting the season in excellent form.

Photo by Mike Kireev/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Russian Premier League assist leader Anton Zinkovskiy; a potential creative force for Celtic?

KS Samara dynamo Anton Zinkovskiy is coming good this season. Or at least all signs point that way.

Zinkovskiy, of KS Samaras, has been a known quantity in the Russian lower leagues for a while now, coming alive last season with 10 goals and 10 assists in the second tier [Transfermarkt].

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Predominantly a left sided midfielder or winger, he’s dealing seamlessly with the step up in quality. So far this season, he’s set up 3 goals in 6 games, and being the star man for KS Samaras, who sit 11th at the time of writing.

Although Jota is in and Mikey Johnston will come back from injury soon enough, options down the left are never a bad thing. Good in possession and tidy with his passes, averaging 1.5 key balls per 90 [WhoScored?], Zinkovskiy would represent decent value as an extra option for Celtic.

Photo by Mikhail JaparidzeTASS via Getty Images

Goals, goals, goals: Russian Premier League striker Gamid Agalarov

Perfectly-bearded FC Ufa striker Gamid Agalarov is just 21, but he’s scoring for fun.

The former Anzhi Makhachkala striker spent last season on loan with Volgar Astrakhan, scoring 5 goals in 14 games. That’s fine and well, but it seems to have lit a spark in the Russian U21 international.

In total, FC Ufa have scored 7 league goals so far this season. Gamid Agalarov has scored 5 of them, and set up the other. Just below average height, Agalarov isn’t some flat-track bully or set-piece menace, but he is a surprisingly cultured striker for his tender years.

A magnet for tackles and very productive in short bursts, it’s worth noting that two of Agalorov’s appearances this season have been from the bench. While he’s unlikely to keep up the same level of production all season, a Russia cap and attention from Europe surely beckons.

Sead Haksabanovic / (Photo by Filip Filipovic/MB Media/Getty Images)

At Starfelt’s former club: Sead Haksabanovic is a handful for defenders

A Rubin Kazan player who could’ve represented Sweden, Montenegrin international Sead Haksabanovic was once on the books at both West Ham United and Malaga.

Fine, it didn’t necessarily work out for him, but he’s a menace to Russian Premier League defences. That’s after a successful stint with IFK Norköpping, in which he scored 21 times in 79 games, from the left of midfield.

That’s the kind of wide dynamism Celtic could surely use going forward. While he didn’t make the grade at West Ham United, there’s a reason the Hammers spent €3m on him just four years ago.

A recent signing for Rubin Kazan, he’s showing some positive early signs. In just 6 league outings, he’s scored one and assisted another [Transermarkt]. At international level, he’s averaged 3 dribbles a game, with 2.7 key passes. That’s some creativity [WhoScored?].

Still only 22, it’s likely that on current form, clubs will be looking to keep his stint at Rubin Kazan short. That being the case, whether or not Jota performs, you can imagine Sead Haksabanovic being on Celtic’s radar.

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