Reports out of Russia are suggesting that left-sided utility player Yuri Zhirkov has visited FC Anzhi Makhachkala ahead of a possible transfer to the Russian Premier League club. Zhirkov, whose Chelsea career has never really taken off despite the occasional flash of brilliance, has long been expected to be on the way out and given Russia's strange home-grown rules it would be no shock to see him return to his homeland.
Anzhi, if you haven't been paying attention to the crazy world of Russian football, were founded in 1991 and lasted less than 20 years before being snapped up by a billionaire and presented with Roberto Carlos, who has been rewarded for playing with the club with racist abuse, which is nice. I guess that's what happens when you have no history. Roberto Carlos' unhappiness may well see him moving on before very long, which leaves Gadzhi Gadzhiev's side in need of a new left back - hence the interest in Zhirkov.
While it's sad to see a good player leave, it'd also be totally understandable if a move did end up going through. Zhirkov cost Chelsea a lot of money when they bought him in 2009, and although he's proven at least somewhat capable of slotting in virtually anywhere on the pitch, injuries have held him back to the point that he's made virtually no impact on the club save for a wonder-goal against Spartak Moscow during last year's Champions League group stages.
With one of Patrick van Aanholt and Ryan Bertrand around (presumably), there's less of a need for Zhirkov as Ashley Cole insurance, although I'd be surprised if he was let go without the Blues acquiring some insurance for a midfield weakened by Michael Essien's departure. I don't really know how much he'd go for - it'd probably be significantly less than the £18M Chelsea paid for him at Guus Hiddink's suggestion two years ago - but at this point I'm not sure it matters too much. Wage relief is good, and giving Zhirkov the chance to play regularly (if his body can take it) would be no bad thing either.
There's nothing close to an agreement yet, of course. Anzhi have simply expressed an interest in Zhirkov and have flown him over to talk about it. Should he be agreeable to a switch, the clubs would still need to negotiate a price ahead of the player taking a medical and personal terms. So even if this has legs, it'll probably take a while for anything concrete to materialise.