RUSSIA are set to get their World Cup campaign underway as they look to do their country proud on home soil.
Key to their chances will be midfielder Aleksandr Golovin, who has previously been courted by Arsenal and opened his account with a brilliant free kick in the opening match.
Who is Aleksandr Golovin and where does he come from?
GOLOVIN was born in the south-western Siberian town Kaltan and spent his formative years playing futsal.
He joined FC Novokuznetsk in 2009 and played for a little over three years in their youth ranks before moving to CSKA in 2012 as 16-year-old.
The Russian club were involved in the Uefa Youth League during the 2013/14 campaign and it was a tournament that allowed Golovin to display his skills to a wider audience.
The midfielder played six times in the competition and ended with two goals, against Manchester City and Bayern Munich, and two assists.
The following campaign would see Golovin break into the CSKA first team.
He made his debut in the Russian Cup, playing 88 minutes as a left winger in a 2-1 win over Khimik.
His league debut arrived in March 2015 as a late substitute in a 4-0 victory over Mordovia.
Golovin ended that campaign having made ten appearances for the first team.
He was developing a reputation as an exciting youngster whose technique and decision making on the ball belied his years.
At the end of the season Golovin represented Russia at the 2015 Under-19 European Championships.
He was part of the side that reached the final but wasn’t able to add to the Under-17 crown he’d won two years earlier.
The 2015/16 season proved to be Golovin’s breakthrough for CSKA.
He made 23 appearances and notched three goals, two of which came in a Russian Cup semi-final win over Krasnodar.
Golovin earned his first cap for Russia at the end of that campaign.
He was introduced as a substitute just after an hour against Belarus and scored his first international goal 16 minutes later.
He followed that up with a second strike on his second appearance against Lithuania.
The then Russia coach, and now Hull boss, Leonid Slutski was impressed by the youngster’s impact and made no bones about telling reporters the midfielder was one of the brightest prospects the country had.
He said: “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 [scoring twice in his first two games] – with statistics like that, you can leave the national team with your head held high.”
And earlier this season, he put himself back at the forefront of Arsenal minds by scoring a brilliant free kick in a 4-1 defeat for CSKA Moscow at the Emirates.
How much will he cost?
CSKA have reportedly placed a £10m price tag Golovin’s head which, given the current market, is certainly not going to scare off any clubs.
That kind of money is pocket change to a side like Arsenal which makes Golovin an even more attractive proposition as, if he wasn’t to realise his potential, the Gunners wouldn’t take a huge financial hit.
Signing Golovin would be little risk but potentially have a huge reward.