At 26, Igor Akinfeev has already inscribed his name into the Russian football history books. Having made his PFC CSKA Moskva debut as a 17-year-old, the goalkeeper has made well over 200 Premier-Liga appearances and recently surpassed Soviet-era legends Lev Yashin and Rinat Dasayev, setting a record by going 708 minutes unbeaten for the national team.
Blowing his own trumpet, however, is not something the 57-times capped international specialises in. "It's a coincidence," he told UEFA.com about that sequence of Russia clean sheets. "No goalkeeper in the world can ensure a run like this – it's all in God's hands. As for the record, they all get broken sooner or later, and my record will be broken one day too."
However, while Akinfeev feels his achievements are nothing special, former USSR goalkeeper Vladimir Pilguy begs to differ. The 64-year-old told UEFA.com: "Akinfeev has a whole set of brilliant qualities, which you could see from childhood. He has excellent reflexes, very good positioning, good technique and he knows how to predict how things will unfold in a game – but perhaps his main forte is mental strength."
All of those talents have helped Akinfeev overcome what might have been classed as a natural weakness – his relatively modest height, 1.85m. Former FC Dinamo Moskva stalwart Pilguy said: "A modern tendency is for goalkeepers to be no shorter than 1.90m, yet Igor's height does not prevent him being first choice for the national team and at one of Russia's best clubs."
Pilguy still thinks Akinfeev can improve in terms of coming off his line and physically challenging opposing forwards, though unlike many of the keeper's most ardent admirers, he does not feel Akinfeev should be in any hurry to move abroad. "Why should he leave?" asked Pilguy. "The fans love him, the club love him, the coaching staff trust him. Akinfeev would do well in any league, but if I was in his shoes I would not even be looking at other options."
The man himself seems to be entirely in accord on that point. Having won three Premier-Liga titles, five Russian Cups and the 2004/05 UEFA Cup with the Army Men, Akinfeev has his eye on more trophies – with his side top of this season's Russian table. Spanish and English teams might be seen as a step up, but he is not so sure. "I don't know what everybody else thinks, but in my eyes CSKA are a top club," said Akinfeev. "I have been here for 22 years and I have not ruled out spending the rest of my career here."
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