MOSCOW, June 27 (R-Sport) - Arsenal midfielder and former Russia football captain Andrei Arshavin returned to his first club Zenit St. Petersburg on a free transfer on Thursday, signing a two-year contract.
Arshavin, 32, left Zenit in 2009 for UK Premier League side Arsenal, where he started well but has struggled to hold down a first-team place in recent seasons. Arshavin’s contract with Zenit starts July 1, the day his Arsenal contract officially expires.
“One of Russia's best football players of the last decade is returning to his home town,” Zenit said in a website statement. “Zenit football club welcomes the return to Andrei Arshavin to St. Petersburg and wishes the athlete new success in the squad.”
The move had been long expected, with Zenit considered the only club in contention to sign Arshavin.
On Sunday, Alexei Miller, head of the Gazprom company which owns Zenit, confirmed it was Arshavin himself, rather than the club, who had initiated transfer talks, and said Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti had not “primarily” wanted to sign the former Gunner.
Arshavin is Zenit's fourth signing of the summer, following former Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoly Tymoshchuk, young midfielder Ivan Solovyov from Dynamo Moscow and promising goalkeeper Yury Lodygin from Greece's Skoda Xanthi.
Arshavin played for Zenit between 1999 and 2008, winning the Russian title and the UEFA Cup.
His career at Arsenal started brightly and memorably included a four-goal haul against Liverpool, but soon tailed off. Arshavin spent part of the 2011-12 campaign on loan at Zenit, while last season he was a peripheral figure for Arsenal, making only scattered substitute appearances.
Arshavin has 75 caps for Russia and was part of the side that reached the Euro 2008 semifinals. After captaining Russia at Euro 2012, he has suffered a humbling at international level.