Fyodor Smolov is reportedly in the shop window for a move to the English Premier League during the World Cup 2018 as he plays for Russia. In a video blog published the day before the start of the 2018 World Cup, the Krasnodar striker Smolov, said, “I believe that our national team has the potential to surprise.”
Russia goes into the 2018 tournament as the lowest ranked team at the World Cup in 65th place. Though Smolov thinks there are reasons to be optimistic. Smolov said in his Players Tribune video that the team’s performance at the 2017 Confederations Cup showed they are capable. The team was eliminated in the first round of that tournament. Smolov says that, “All the players, who were there, a certain experience… experience of playing against top teams.”
Smolov went on, “Everyone drew certain conclusions and benefited from it, including myself what was missing and what we should pay attention to.” The team captain continued, “I can tell for sure that we will bend over backward to succeed at the World Cup.” He called on the team’s fans to “support us with all their heart… I would like to ask our fans and fellow citizens to be patient and to believe in us.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Smolov Was Formerly Married to World Cup 2018 Ambassador Victoria Lopyreva
Smolov began dating Russian TV star Victoria Lopyreva in 2012. In 2013, the couple was married in a lavish ceremony in Bali. By 2015, the couple announced their divorce. Russian tabloids reported that Lopyreva believed that Smolov wasn’t ready to settle down and have a family. Smolov’s mother, Irina, later told reporters that the couple found it difficult to find time together because of her social calendar and his rigorous training schedule. Irina Smolov said that she was very close to Lopyreva and that Lopyreva called the Russian’s captain’s mother “Mom.” Smolov previously said that his mother “is soft, empathetic and talkative.”
Speaking to the Sun, Lobyreva made it clear that her past relationship will not impact her support for Smolov and his teammates. The model said, “We Russians will put heart and soul into supporting our players. I’ll be cheering for Russia, that’s for sure!” Lobyreva went on to say that the Russian team should look Iceland’s heroics at Euro 2016 for heroics. She added, “I have faith in the Russian players to play a beautiful game.”
2. Smolov Is the ‘Russian David Beckham’
Smolov was close to a move to West Ham United in January 2018, reported Sky Sports. The sports network said that Smolov was close to a $16 million deal between his club, Krasnodar, and West Ham, that would begin as a loan. The Sky piece refers to Smolov as “the Russian David Beckham.” As a demonstration of his Beckham-like persona, prior to the World Cup, Smolov was featured on the cover of Russian Vogue magazine with Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova.
The Mirror reported that West Ham had been tracking Smolov for some time but former coach Slaven Bilic wasn’t convinced by him. In March 2018, the Sun reported that West Ham and Krasnodar were close to a $20 million deal. The tabloid says that Krasnodar was keen to hold on to the Russian captain. It’s unclear where his future will lie after the World Cup.
3. Smolov Says, ‘I Have to Thank My Parents for Showing Me How to Dream’
Smolov has been studying and learning English since he was five years old, according to a blog he wrote in the Player’s Tribune on the eve of the World Cup. Smolov said his parents told him, “Language will open up the world to you.”
Smolov said that when he was born, in 1990, it was a period of “uncertainty” due to the fall of the Soviet Union. Smolov wrote, “I have my parents to thank for showing me how to dream.” During his summer vacations from school, Smolov said that his mother and his grandmother would ensure that he read 20 pages of an English book every day while his friends would be out playing.
When speaking about how Russians are portrayed in American movies, Smolov wrote, “They could never find an actor who spoke decent Russian.” Smolov mentioned that the Russians always played bad guys in movies. Smolov said, “You still see the stereotypes today… Yes, there are real problems here, just as there are in America and other countries. I’m not talking about governments. I’m interested in people.”
4. Smolov Thinks: ‘Luis Suarez Is the Best’
Smolov said in an April 2018 interview with FIFA’s website, the striker said that he was ready to take on his “responsibility” at the World Cup in 2018. When asked about his favorite player from his group’s rivals, between Mo Salah, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, Smolov’s response was emphatic. The Russian captain said, “Suarez is the best. I’ve been an admirer of his for a long time. Apart from his goals and assists, he works so hard and does so much for the team, pressing defenders, troubling his marker and creating space.” Smolov also said that he would prefer for Russia to get out of the group stage rather than win the Golden Boot.
5. During the Euro 2016 Riots Involving Russian Hooligans, Smolov Said it Was English & Welsh Fans that Started the Trouble
In the wake of the riots between Russian, English and Welsh fans in the French city of Lille during Euro 2016, Smolov had an opinion on the violence. Smolov was quoted by the Guardian as saying that fans who want to fight, should fight “elsewhere” rather than in the stadium. Smolov went on, “From my side of things I’m not really going to make any statement. I’d like the supporters to go on backing us. As for everything that goes on around us, there’s a number of videos that have been uploaded on the web and clearly the English really did provoke them, and indeed the Welsh fans – clearly these events mustn’t go on in football stands. But if people really want to go out with the intention of scrapping, they should fight elsewhere, they shouldn’t do so in the stadium – we want to have support in the stadium.”