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    Zenit say Arshavin deserves move to leading European side

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    A top Zenit St. Petersburg official has told RIA Novosti that Andrei Arshavin deserves the opportunity to play for a "top Western side."

    MOSCOW, November 11 (RIA Novosti) - A top Zenit St. Petersburg official has told RIA Novosti that Andrei Arshavin deserves the opportunity to play for a "top Western side."

    Earlier in the day, Spanish media reported that Real Madrid had set their sights on the player. The news came less than a week after Arshavin told Russia's Sport Express newspaper that he would not play for his hometown club next year.

    Konstantin Sarsaniya, advisor to the club president, later told RIA Novosti that, "Andrei has earned entirely the right to play for a top Western side"

    He also said though that he felt Arshavin's outburst "could have been avoided."

    "He has an existing contract, a not insignificant salary, and obligations to the club," Sarsaniya said.

    Arshavin, 27, became a target for a number of European sides this summer after helping Zenit lift the UEFA Cup and then propelling Russia to the semifinals of Euro 2008.

    Although the diminutive forward made no secret of his desire to "test himself abroad," Zenit, controlled by state-run energy giant Gazprom, subsequently turned down offers of some $20 million and $26 million from Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur respectively as "too low."

    Sarsaniya also said that, "The final decision will be taken by the club's directors. However, I believe that the earlier sum of 25 million euros [some $32 million] will be lowered. There are objective reasons for this - firstly, the player has not got any younger, secondly the global financial crisis has had an influence on the price."

    Zenit trainer Dick Advocaat has also backed Arshavin, saying that, "It is necessary to allow Arshavin the opportunity to move on."

    "We have had some good moments together but it is now time to go our separate ways. It is best for both the player and the club if he can sign for one of Europe's great teams," added the Dutch trainer.

    If Real Madrid were to sign Arshavin, the Russian would be unable to play in any of his new club's Champions League games as he is cup-tied after playing four matches for Zenit in the tournament.

    Zenit are in the same group as Real in Europe's most prestigious club competition. The two clubs clashed on September 30 in St. Petersburg, with Zenit losing 2-1, despite dominating their illustrious opponents for much of the game.

    The return fixture is on December 10 in Madrid, and could decide which of the two clubs joins group leaders Juventus in the play-off stages. It could prove an opportunity to clear up the long-running Arshavin transfer saga.

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