The coach of Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg, Luciano Spalletti, said Friday he has an abundance of players to replace rebellious midfielder Igor Denisov.
The Russia international, a key part of the club's title-winning team over the last two seasons, was dropped to reserves team after he issued a pay rise ultimatum in protest at the huge salaries of new arrivals Hulk and Axel Witsel.
“We can try to compensate for Denisov’s qualities with collective efforts, but we don’t have a player who make so many interceptions,” Spalletti said. “However, the players we have possess great technical skills."
He identified midfielders Konstantin Zyryanov, Viktor Faizulin, and Witsel as those who can step into Denisov's shoes.
Spalletti said the bad blood to have surfaced at Zenit since the big-money arrivals was created artificially.
“If players think that arrival of newcomers may create problems, then problems will appear,” Spalletti said. “High-class players do not create problems in the team. The team is disturbed by those who think that new players create problems.”
The 53 year old coach stressed that the club couldn’t develop properly if the players didn’t maintain their discipline.
“Our behavior should be at the highest level set by the club on its way to progress. Those who don’t want to share these plans should be left outside the club.” Spalletti said, evidently implying Denisov.
Since Denisov was suspended from the main team, Zenit have drawn their two league games and suffered a 3-2 Champions League home defeat to AC Milan on Tuesday.
They travel to Krasnodar on Sunday in an attempt to improve upon seventh place in the league.