The newcomer RPL “Baltika” does not delay with transfers, so as not to share the fate of “Torpedo”. Even before the start of the summer training camp, the Kaliningrad club signed three newcomers. The first was the Portuguese central defender Joao Lameira, the second was one of the most productive players in the First League, Artur Galoyan (he scored 8+13 in 30 games with Alania). But perhaps Baltika’s most interesting acquisition to date is Alexander Zhirov. The central defender returns from Germany, where he played for five years and was team captain.
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The current head coach of Baltika Sergey Ignashevich was able to play with Zhirov back in March 2015, when Fabio Capello greatly surprised fans and specialists: he included the central defender, who played in the FNL for Volgar, in the expanded list of candidates for the Russian team. equipment. But the connection between Ignashevich and Zhirov was never created. Sergei played in the Euro 2016 qualifier for Montenegro, while Alexander did not.
Zhirov came to the national team when Ignashevich had already retired. In 2020 and 2021, he was called up by Stanislav Cherchesov for a friendly match with Sweden, Nations League matches with Turkey and Hungary, as well as the 2022 World Cup qualifier with Slovenia. Each time Alexander remained on the bench, still not making his debut for the national team. His career at the club developed more successfully. Although in the Second Bundesliga, but still in Germany.
Before leaving for Sandhausen, Zhirov spent three seasons in the RPL. As part of Anji and Tom, he played 56 games in which he scored one goal and provided one assist. And this goal was not for anyone, but for Spartak Moscow. And also a winner! In the 85th minute, with the score 1:1, Anji’s central defender even took a corner into Artyom Rebrov’s penalty area and played very well before the game, winning the air. Headlining is generally one of Alexander’s strengths.
Zhirov’s career was supposed to really promote the transition to Krasnodar in January 2017. But there, for some reason, he was not even given a chance, he was immediately sent on loan. The candidate for the Russian national team never played for Krasnodar. In the winter of 2018, the center-back spent three months in the Yenisei, which he helped win in the Anji teams and rise to the RPL, and in the summer he went as a free agent to Germany, where he stayed for a long five years. .
Zhirov arrived at Sandhausen as a completely unknown legionnaire, eventually rising to the rank of captain. In the first four seasons, the team with the Russian defender successfully solved the problem of survival in the Second Bundesliga. He was first ranked 15th, then moved up to 10th. After that there was another 15th and 14th place. Nobody set the goal of fighting for the First Bundesliga, although Alexander himself dreamed of it. In the summer of 2019, the popular Kicker edition included the Russian legionnaire in the top of the best center-backs in the second division, and more status clubs took an interest in Zhirov. Sandhausen did not let go, extending the player’s contract until 2023.
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Before the start of last season, there were rumors about the possible transfer of Zhirov to Dynamo Moscow. Our legionnaire did not close the doors to Russia, however he planned to stay in Germany and ascend at the age of 32.
Alexander admitted in an interview for the Championship in October 2022: “I came here to play in the First Bundesliga. Also, in the summer I will finally have a residence permit. It is easier to move to the big leagues – I will not be considered a legionnaire. I will choose the best option for me to continue my career at a high level. Each step will be important. I have 100% outperformed the club I am currently playing for, the management knows that…
How did you become the captain of Sandhausen? The coach was chosen at the beginning of the season. Our main captain broke down and I got a season-long bracelet. I’ve been out with the captain’s armband before, but for the main one, this is the first time. For me, almost nothing has changed. It’s nice that the guys are counting on me, believe me. Although the position on the field is such that there is a lot of responsibility and drive. Sometimes you have to go to the management or the coach to solve some day-to-day issues: ask for an extra day off and so on.
The season started very well. Sandhausen picked up two wins in the first three rounds, and Zhirov himself scored a goal against Darmstadt. Again, he successfully went to the standard: he took a good position in someone else’s penalty area: he scored a touchdown on a bounced ball.
But then “Sandhausen” passed abruptly. In the next 11 rounds, he won only once. In February, as the team fell to a bottom 18th place, head coach Alois Schwartz was replaced by Thomas Oral. However, it lasted less than two months. He completed the “Sandhausen” championship under the guidance of Gerhard Kleppinger. The team went on a nine game losing streak (seven losses, two draws) and lost four times in a row at the finish line. Everyone was mistaken in such a mess, including Zhirov. As a result, Sandhausen remained in 18th place – six points were missing in the joint zone.
Alexander played 36 games in the Second Bundesliga and the German Cup, scoring four goals and receiving three yellow cards. According to some statistical indicators, the Russian became the best in Sandhausen at the German championship. Zhirov made the most passes (1340, of which 80% were accurate), interceptions (292), rebounds (212) and even returns to someone else’s half of the field (28). But the most surprising thing is that our legionnaire, being a central defender, made it into the top 5 Sandhausen players in shots on goal (7)! On the other hand, Oleksandr has the most turnovers in his own half (37). Obviously, this is due to the fact that he was most often relied on to initiate attacks as a football player capable of making a decent first pass.
Of course, Zhirov had no motivation to renew his expired contract with Sandhausen after the club’s relegation to the third division. But after such a nightmarish season for the team, it was not worth waiting for good offers from Germany. Now Alexander will return to Russia, of course, a completely different player, and not the one who left five years ago. More experienced. More skilled.
An interesting interview with the head of Baltika.
“After Zenit, I lived in an orphanage in the jungle.” Great interview with the boss of Baltika
Something tells us there won’t be two starts in a row in Zhirov’s career. Ignashevich can put together a strong gang in Baltika.