The 2018 FIFA World Cup is now underway, with hosts Russia taking care of business easily against Saudi Arabia in the opening game on Thursday night in Moscow. The matchup of the two teams with the lowest FIFA ranking entering the tournament produced not unexpectedly low-quality football, but there was still one standout player in the 5-0 beatdown who, in the time-honored tradition of making a splash at major tournaments, should be seeing his name in transfer rumors soon, if not sooner.
In fact, Aleksandr Golovin’s name has been making the transfer rumor rounds already. He was linked with Chelsea last May (2017) after being a nominated finalist for the annual “Golden Boy” awards, and re-appeared a couple months ago (April 2018) as well. A brief Google search also turns up plenty of supposed interest from the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Juventus, Monaco, etc — all the usual suspects and more — but Chelsea’s connections to CSKA Moscow through the owners’ friendships (and possible buying-interest from Roman’s son, Arkadiy Abramovich), not to mention Chelsea’s friendship with former CSKA manager Leonid Slutsky (currently in charge of Vitesse) make it easy to name-drop Chelsea.
On Thursday, Golovin was Russia’s most dangerous player, frequently popping up on the left to cause havoc (with the help of ex-Chelsea wild card Yuri Zhirkov). After Alan Dzagoev’s unfortunate first-half injury, the entire burden of Russia’s creativity fell on Golovin’s young shoulders, and the 22-year-old rose to the task admirably. A goal and two assists later, he was the clear choice for Man of the Match.
Golovin also covered the most ground of any player and his enthusiastic effort was exemplified by an 88th minute yellow card, the first of the match but long after the result had already been decided.
The cherry on top of his rather complete performance was this stellar free-kick goal to make it 5-0 with the last kick of the match.
Golovin has been valued at around €25m prior to the tournament. We can safely add a few million to that after just one game.