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UEFA.com's weekly wonderkid: Nikita Chernov

Nikita Chernov is yet to make his first appearance for CSKA Moskva in the league but he is already a senior Russian international and impressed in the UEFA Youth League.

Nikita Chernov celebrates a goal during this summer's UEFA European U19 Championship
Nikita Chernov celebrates a goal during this summer's UEFA European U19 Championship ©AFP

Nikita Chernov is yet to make his first league appearance for CSKA Moskva but the 19-year-old has already won his first senior cap for Russia, scored twice in the 2015 UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals and captained his club to a 4-2 comeback victory at Wolfsburg in the UEFA Youth League group stage.

Name: Nikita Chernov
Club: CSKA Moskva
Debut: 24 September 2014 v Khimik Dzerzhinsk (Russian Cup)
Position: central defender
Nationality: Russian
Date of birth: 14 January 1996
Preferred foot: right
Height: 188cm

They say ...
"I have been following Nikita for a long time. He has all the attributes to be a second [Sergei] Ignashevich or maybe even better. Chernov is a modest boy who lives football."
Former Russia U21 coach Nikolai Pisarev

"Of all the young CSKA players, I predict the brightest future for Nikita Chernov. Thanks to circumstances and his vision of football, he has matured earlier than the rest. His full commitment in training is impressive too."
CSKA defender Vasili Berezutski

"Not long ago, I told you Chernov was a potential Russian international. It turned out that he won his first cap earlier than I could have imagined."
CSKA youth coach Aleksandr Grishin after Chernov replaced the injured Berezutski 12 minutes into Russia's UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier against Austria in June

©Getty Images

Background ...
Born in Volzhsky, an industrial city in the south-western region of Volgograd Oblast, Chernov excelled in childhood at both swimming and football – twin pursuits which, he believes, helped his physical development. Though he wanted to be a striker, his youth coaches put him at centre-back. They must have known something because, aged 13, he was signed by CSKA's youth academy. He later captained both the club and Russia's U17 teams, though he missed the latter's 2013 UEFA European U17 Championship triumph in Slovakia through illness.

In 2014 Chernov began training with the CSKA first team, playing two Russian Cup matches last autumn. More recently he extended his contract until 2019, and has sat on the bench for CSKA in the Premier-Liga though he is still to be deployed by boss Leonid Slutski.

Playing style ...
It is hard to truly assess a player who has only four senior matches under their belt. But you can definitely see his physical power, technique and commitment. "Despite being so young, Nikita is already a trustworthy defender, tenacious and disciplined," Pisarev says. "It's tough to beat him one on one. He is strong in the air too."

Shades of ...
Chernov compares himself to CSKA colleagues Aleksei and Vasili Berezutski, who have become his mentors. "Their advice about positional play has been vital," he says. "Basically, it's important to play in such a way that you don't run much, but always see the ball and have it within reach. They also helped me in one-on-one situations. Sometimes it's better not to go into a scramble, but to let the ball come to you."


Breakthrough …
If his June call-up to Russia's senior squad was intended as a part of a long-term recruitment strategy, Chernov nonetheless ended up playing 78 minutes in both the 4-2 friendly victory over Belarus and the 1-0 EURO qualifying defeat by Austria. In each case he deputised for Vasili Berezutski, who fell ill before the first match and got injured early in the second.

Not that his introduction was entirely smooth. Belarus scored one of their goals after a clumsy rebound from the defender, who was also involved in the collective mistake that resulted in Austria's winner. "Yes, I did win my first official cap, but it's shame we didn't get at least a draw," said Chernov after the Austria game. "I didn't have a single training session with [centre-back partner] Ivan Novoseltsev beforehand, so you can say we did OK."

Best-case scenario ...
Chernov is a hot prospect for the home 2018 FIFA World Cup. Sergei Ignashevich will be 39 by then, while Vasili Berezutski, Russia's other key defender, fears the finals will come too late for him as well. Opportunity may knock for Chernov, but first he must break into CSKA's first XI.

He says ...
"I stick to the view that I need to stay at CSKA and work with the first team where I can learn every day. The likes of Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski are always ready to help and offer advice. They have immense experience and have been part of major successes. I want to stay here and wait for my chance. I always try to give my best regardless of whether it is youth or senior football. I always give 100% and do not spare myself. Will I be a regular for Russia in 2018? We will have to see."