When you think of FIFA’s top European footballing nations and leagues, you think of the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, the Serie A in Italy, and the German Bundesliga. You might even consider Ligue 1 and Portugal’s Primeira Liga. The Russian Football Championship rarely comes to mind straight away, yet Russian teams are perennial dark horses in international and European competitions, regularly beating well-regarded opposition. No one wants to draw a Russian side in the Champions League or Europa League, and Russia are always a stern test at a World Cup or European Championships.
So, it makes sense that the Russian Football Championship would have a few talented youngsters among its ranks, right? We’ve trawled through the league, and picked out the best young players in every position.
With legendary Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev entering his 30s now, it’s time for someone new to take up the mantle, and that man could well be Anton Mitryushkin. In real life, Mitryushkin has just moved to Swiss club FC Sion, but in FIFA 16, he’s still on the books of Spartak Moscow, and he’s a top goalkeeping prospect. His overall starts pretty low at just 64, and his handling is a bit suspect at just 56, but with some training and loan spells he’ll grow all the way up to around 80 overall, making him a solid first team keeper, or a very capable backup.
Khodzhaniyazov currently plies his trade in Denmark, but he’s listed as a Zenit Saint Petersburg player in FIFA 16, so he makes the list. He’s already an experienced international at youth level, and he has enormous growth potential for anyone willing to sign him up. At just 19 and 69 overall, he’s not quite ready for the first XI just yet, but his base stats are solid – particularly his 71 stamina, 73 standing and sliding tackle and 70 marking – and he has a potential ceiling of 83 overall, which would make him a fantastic starting left-back.
Rubin Kazan’s Georgian centre-back has come on leaps and bounds since his first team debut back in 2011, and he’s grown into arguably the best young centre back in the league. At 1.96m he’s a massive, commanding presence at the heart of the back four, and has no problem dealing with aerial balls into the box. His tackling ratings are both under 80 and could use some work, but he’s a smart footballer, with 80 marking and 81 interceptions and crucially, his 79 acceleration and 81 sprint speed means he’s able to keep pace with quick opposition attackers. He’ll grow another seven points with some training, up to 81 overall.
Uruguayan centre-back Lemos is a slightly lower-level prospect, but he has serious growth potential, and he’ll become a very serviceable backup, or a quality centre-back for a lowe- league side. His 73 acceleration and 75 sprint speed a major strength – priceless for a centre-back who’ll line up against lightning quick strikers every week. Aside from that, he’s a blank canvas – yours for a minimal transfer fee, and he’ll grow from 63 to 77 overall if you give him lots of attention on the training pitch.
CSKA Moscow’s Fernandes is a long-established, quality right-back. At 25, he’s no wonderkid anymore, but he’s certainly worth looking at – he’s the best right-back in the Russian Football Championship, and he still has plenty of years left in the tank. At 1.85m, with 83 standing and sliding tackle and 85 marking, he’s a good enough defender to fill in at centre-back if you need him to, and his 81 pace, 81 stamina and 75 crossing make him effective on the flank as well, where he can snuff out opposition attacks, and then get forward on the counter. Sign him up and he’ll grow a few points, up to 83 overall.
Like Mário Fernandes, Shatov is 25 and therefore already well on his way in terms of development, but there’s still some growth potential left, and he’s arguably the best left midfield prospect in the league. His 83 acceleration is boosted by a whopping 91 sprint speed, and complemented nicely by 82 dribbling and ball control, 81 vision and four star skill moves. He’s already 80 overall, which makes him more than ready to step straight into your first team, but he’ll grow a few more points up to 83 with a bit of extra training.
Centre defensive midfield
Ozdoev has been a fixture for Rubin Kazan for a couple of years now, bringing solidity to the midfield with his defensive instincts and clean passing. His FIFA stats paint him as a real all-rounder – his shooting is a bit weak, but he’s pretty quick and agile, and his tackling, marking and interceptions are all 70+. His passing is much better than his overall rating suggests, as his 77 short passing and 74 long passing are dragged down by his poor free kick and curve numbers. He’s a dependable workhorse in the midfield, and he’ll grow up to 81 overall in a few years.
Centre attacking midfield
Kuzmin made his debut in May 2015 for Dynamo Moscow, and he’s been tipped for great things ever since. Despite his low overall rating at the start of Career Mode, Kuzmin is already very capable on the ball, and whilst his 67 acceleration stat probably deserves to be a bit higher, his 71 balance, ball control and dribbling and three-star skill moves mark him out as a dangerous and skilful attacking midfielder for the future. Sign him up, get him on the training pitch, and he’ll grow up to 80 overall.
Ananidze has long been regarded as a top European talent, and he’s been linked with some big clubs around Europe for a few years now. He’s a little older and more developed than Kuzmin, and it shows in his stats, with 84 acceleration, 87 agility and 90 balance making him a dangerous ball carrier. His vision and passing are good too, and he’s a capable if not elite finisher. Still, there’s plenty of time to work on that – Ananidze will grow from 74 to 80 overall in a couple of years, with the right training.
Promes is undoubtedly the top prospect in the Russian Football Championship right now, and the Spartak Moscow winger has set the league alight in the last couple of years, banging in goals for his club and earning himself a call up to the Dutch national team too. He’s pacey thanks to 86 acceleration and 89 sprint speed, his 80 stamina means he’ll roam the right flank for 90 minutes and most importantly of all, he’s a top-quality finisher, with 80 finishing, 79 positioning, 82 shot power and 83 long shooting. And he’s only 23, with loads of growth left up to 87 overall. Sign him up already.