When he joined Manchester United on the deadline day of the summer transfer window last season, the reaction was less than positive from the fans. Given the £27.5m paid out for Marouane Fellaini, a lot was expected from the man who had been known for his strength, attacking ability and of course, the famous afro hairstyle. Linking up with former boss at Everton, it was hoped that David Moyes could get the best out of the midfielder, but the signing of the 26-year-old only became the epitome of the Scot’s ill-fated spell in Manchester. Deployed in an unfavoured defensive-midfield role, Fellaini looked out of place and his season can be accurately described in two words: abject disappointment. Many of a Belgian persuasion feared that the spectre of the poor campaign would follow him to the World Cup but those fears were quickly belied. After starting the opening game against Algeria on the bench, it took just five minutes for him to notch a maiden goal in this competition after being introduced in place of Mousa Dembele. It was a typical finish from Fellaini as he rose higher than his defender to nod home a flicked header. This strike was in stark comparison to his performances for the Red Devils as he failed to open his account for them in 2013-14, despite playing 1431 minutes. Despite this encounter being a drab affair, he showed some neat touches and was always looking to kick-start the attacking movements for Marc Wilmots’s team. While it is difficult to say whether this might prove to be a false dawn, Fellaini’s effectiveness in the second striker position could prove to be a useful option for Wilmots.
Since making his debut for the senior team in 2002, Alexander Kerzakhov has proved to be a key player for Russia. Although not blessed with blistering pace, Kerzakhov possesses a poacher’s instinct similar to another veteran forward at this tournament: Miroslav Klose. His prolific strike rate in Russian club football makes him almost an automatic choice for any squad – with a strike being notched in 47.49 per cent of his appearances for Zenit St Petersburg and Dinamo Moscow. He outlined his influence during their opening fixture on Tuesday when he saved the blushes of goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev by scoring the equaliser against South Korea. The impact was more impressive given the fact that he had been on the field for just three minutes – after replacing former Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov. Taking advantage of defensive indecision in the opponent’s backline, the striker swivelled inside the box and fired home a cool finish from close range. That goal meant that the experienced striker’s international tally was extended to 26, to put him level as his country’s all-time top scorer alongside Vladmir Beschastnykh. Given the fact that Fabio Capello’s team were offering the greater attacking threat, it was a surprise that he was only introduced into proceedings during stoppage time and after they had gone behind. The dearth of striking talent within the Russian ranks – both in their 23-man squad and in general – means that the 31-year-old’s importance cannot be underestimated.
While success on the field isn’t guaranteed for Capello’s Russia during this tournament, his bank manager will certainly be enjoying things off the field. The 68-year-old is the highest paid manager amongst the 32 participants with a yearly wage of £6.7m – £2.1m more than the second-highest earning boss, England’s Roy Hodgson. Two years with Russia will earn the veteran coach £13.39m in addition to the £24m he earned as England boss during his four-year reign between the start of 2008 and early 2012. In comparison to the other coaches, opposite number today Marc Wilmots earns just £515,000 per year (13 times less) with Mexican coach Miguel Herrera, the lowest paid boss at the World Cup, picking up a salary of £125,000 (nearly 54 times less). The Italian is also the most lavishly rewarded when his earnings are compared against the average wage of the people living in the country they represented. Incredibly, Capello acquires 763 times as much as the average Russian person does on an annual basis, with their average wage coming out at £8,773.
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