- *The 30-year-old Spartak Moscow captain has won the first title of his career *
- *Glushakov is hoping to continue his successful season at the Confederations Cup *
- The midfielder wants Russia "to play from the soul, from the heart"
The season just gone will long be remembered by Spartak Moscow fans as they watched their beloved club win the Russian Premier League after a 16-year wait. There were many factors behind the long-overdue triumph - not least the inspirational performances of Red-Whites captain Denis Glushakov.
The midfielder showed unparalleled leadership and made a vital contribution in front of goal, with each of his eight strikes during the campaign proving decisive. It is no surprise that Glushakov was voted Footballer of the Year in Russia.
"I’ve won the league in my first time finishing in the top three," said the Spartak captain in an interview with FIFA.com, unable to keep from smiling. "I’ve never celebrated like we did the night after clinching the title! When the team gathered at the stadium, I jumped for joy on someone’s car and dented the roof slightly."
However, the time for celebrations is over this week as the Russian national team begin their training camp ahead of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. "I’d like this fantastic season to get even better," said a hopeful Glushakov.
*On the verge of landmark cap *Glushakov’s next appearance for his country will be his 50th and only three players out of the current crop have played more games for the Sbornaya: Igor Akinfeev (95), Yuri Zhirkov (72) and Alan Dzagoev (50).
The average age of Russia’s squad these days is significantly lower than at UEFA EURO 2016 and Stanislav Cherchesov, who was appointed head coach last August, has found the main problem to be a lack of consistency. There have been 1-0 victories against Ghana and Romania but also damaging defeats to Qatar (2-1), Costa Rica (4-3) and Côte d'Ivoire (2-0).
"The team hasn’t looked convincing in friendlies," Glushakov admitted, "but there’s a reason for that. Essentially, over the past year we haven’t been able to play at full strength once. People have either been ruled out through injury or haven’t been able to recover in time. As a result, the coach has had to change his line-up constantly."
Nonetheless, the 3-3 draw with Belgium last time out gave some cause for optimism. "We conceded three goals in the first half but then completely turned it around near the end, showing character, desire and passion. Not only did we draw level, but we could have snuck a victory. I think we need to use the final 20 minutes against Belgium as our starting point."
In Glushakov’s view, total dedication and nerves of steel are the keys to success for this group of players. "This team has a mixture of fiery youngsters and slightly more experienced heads, who still have a lot to give," the midfielder continued. "In the near future, we should see a good, competitive side, but right now we’re still in the rebuilding stage. We don’t have a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Lionel Messi, so we can only achieve something if we play together as a team and show incredible commitment."
*A special game against Portugal *Glushakov believes that it will be considered a success if Russia make it to the semi-final at the Tournament of Champions. "If we finish in the top two of the group, it will give our self-belief a boost," said the 30-year-old Spartak man, "but the main thing is putting in decent performances and playing from the soul, from the heart. In that case, the supporters will back the team even if the result is poor and will say, 'These guys gave it their all out there'."
Russia’s biggest test of the summer will take place on 21 June when they play European champions Portugal, and Glushakov is clearly excited the game is being held at Spartak Stadium.
"It will be a special match for me," he revealed. "It would be just great if I managed to score against Portugal at my home stadium."
The match against Portugal is already causing quite a buzz in Russia. "That’s understandable because a lot of people want to see Cristiano Ronaldo in the flesh," Glushakov concluded. "It’d be nice if there were sell-outs for the games against New Zealand and Mexico too. After all, this is the first Confederations Cup to be held in our country and it’s an emotional moment. It’s very important for us we get the support from the stands."