Zidane praises Russian star Arshavin and his 'great feet'

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The legendary French international Zinedine Zidane has praised Russian star Andrey Arshavin, the player of the tournament so far at Euro 2008 and the target for a host of top European clubs.
MOSCOW, June 23 (RIA Novosti) - The legendary French international Zinedine Zidane has praised Russian star Andrey Arshavin, the player of the tournament so far at Euro 2008 and the target for a host of top European clubs.

"I call him No. 10 because I can't say his name properly. What he does at this stage is more difficult than at the World Cup because it's the first big tournament he has played in. I was very happy to see that type of football being played. He has great feet," Zidane told journalists before Sunday's quarter final between Spain and Italy in Vienna.

"Everything he does is surprising. He is very young and it's his first major tournament, so to be able to play the way he does is surprising enough to talk about," Zidane said, according to the UEFA website.

Since returning to the side after missing the first two games of the tournament due to a two-match suspension earned for punching an Andorran player in Russia's final qualifier in November, Arshavin has lit up Euro 2008, dribbling his way past first the Swedish and then the Dutch defenses and scoring a goal in each game. He also provided chance after chance for his often wasteful teammates as Russia have stormed to the semifinals following a disappointing 4-1 defeat to Spain in their opening match.

"Arshavin is a player who can decide very, very fast where he can be a danger. He can turn left, right. He's a very smart player," said Russia coach Guus Hiddink. The Dutchman has transformed Russia from a side that failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, losing 7-1 to Portugal along the way, to a team that plays modern, attractive soccer.

Already on the shopping list of a number of European sides following his performances in taking Zenit St. Petersburg to a UEFA Cup victory in May, Arshavin's elf-like genius looks to have attracted the attention of a number of the continent's big guns with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal rumored to be preparing bids.

Arshavin, an avid Barcelona fan, would prefer to play in Spain. Even if his dream move to the Nou Camp fails to come about, it seems certain that the most talented Russian player of his generation will quit St. Petersburg before the end of the Russian season in November.

"It's possible that the time has come to try my strength at another club. I know that there has been interest from England and Germany, but I would like to play in Spain. There haven't been any offers from Spanish clubs yet though," Arshavin told the Spanish paper AS.

"Andrei dreams of playing for Barcelona," Russian soccer chief Vitaly Mutko told the Spanish newspaper Sport on Monday. "It is, together with the Russian national team, his favourite team."

Zenit's Dutch coach Dick Advocaat has already said Arshavin has told Zenit he wants a move abroad.

"Arshavin has told us his intention is to change clubs," he said. "And we are already looking for a replacement if his departure is confirmed."

Russia face Spain on Thursday in the semifinals of Euro 2008. It would be hard to imagine a better stage for Arshavin to rid the Barcelona bosses of any doubts they may have about adding him to their ranks.

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