CSKA Moskva's president maintains that attacking midfielder Aleksandr Golovin is "not a Russian Ronaldo", but the 19-year-old is exciting fans regardless.
Article top media content
Having scored twice in three senior international appearances, CSKA Moskva's Aleksandr Golovin is considered one of the biggest talents in Russia; UEFA.com spotlights the 19-year-old midfielder.
Name: Aleksandr Golovin
Club: CSKA Moskva
Debut: 24 September 2014 v Khimik Dzerzhinsk (Russian Cup)
Position: attacking midfielder
Date of birth: 30 May 1996
Preferred foot: right
They say …
"His basic technique, passing and understanding of game situations – that was what marked him out from his peers. Players who can change the pace of the game and make a key pass have always been of major value in football. Golovin was Russia's key player at both youth EUROs. Now he is more dynamic on the pitch than [senior Russia captain] Roman Shirokov."
Dmitri Khomukha, former Russia Under-21 coach
"In the Russia national team, I care about Golovin more than the rest. Not because he is from CSKA, but because he is the youngest of them. And you saw what happened [he scored twice in three senior games] – with statistics like that, you can leave the national team with your head held high."
Leonid Slutski, CSKA and Russia coach
Born in Kaltan, southwestern Siberia, Golovin learned the basics at the Metallurg-Kuzbass Academy, but became a hot property after training with the Olympic reserve team and Siberia's regional selection. With scouts from several Premier League clubs tailing him, he chose to join CSKA Moskva in 2012. He won the 2013 UEFA European Under-17 Championship before making his senior CSKA debut in 2014. The Army Men's president Evgeni Giner has insisted he is "not a Russian Ronaldo but a young player making his way"; many disagree.
Playing style …
Golovin started out playing futsal, and his ball control is excellent as a result. Having developed physically in recent years, he is now big enough to tough it out in senior matches, and his finishing – as he demonstrated by registering in friendlies against Belarus and Lithuania in his first two games for Russia – is pretty impressive.
Shades of …
While playing for CSKA's reserves, Golovin said that he looked up to clubmate Alan Dzagoev and then-Zenit playmaker Shirokov, while Mesut Özil was his one-to-watch in European football. By a twist of fate, the 19-year-old is battling to keep Shirokov out of CSKA's starting XI. "I can play in any position in attack, but the playmaker role is my favourite," Golovin says.
Eureka moment …
Called up for the first time in June 2015, Golovin did not read too much into his first Russia caps (even though he was the first player to score in both of his first two appearances). More significant is that he is now centre stage at CSKA, starting in this spring's 2-0 defeat at champions Zenit then scoring his first for the club in a 7-1 mauling of Mordovia on 9 April. Ten days later he hit two – one a stunning long-range effort – to help book a Russian Cup final spot.
Best-case scenario …
CSKA have not always found it easy to assimilate academy prodicts into the first team, but Golovin looks to have broken that mould. If things continue to go well, he might even snatch a place in Russia's UEFA EURO 2016 squad. With Russia hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals, there will be no more competitive games for a while after this summer, giving him plenty of time to work himself into a regular starting slot.
"My goal is to settle at CSKA and represent the club for as long as I can; to become one of CSKA's key performers and maybe spend my whole career here. I'm taking my lead from [one-time CSKA trainee and now captain] Igor Akinfeev."