Russian teams have supplied some top players to big leagues around Europe, but relatively few have appeared in the EPL. Those who have featured in England’s top flight tend to be among the best players in the country, so we’ve been privileged to see them.
Here are the Russian footballers who have played in the English Premier League, up to and including the 2023/24 season.
How many Russian players have won the EPL?
By the end of the 2022/23 domestic season, three Russian players had won the English Premier League title. Andrei Kanchelskis was the first of these, winning the trophy with Manchester United. The Chelsea pair of Alexey Smertin and Yuri Zhirkov are the other two Russian players to win the EPL.
All Russian players who Played in the Premier League
An attacking and skillful winger, Andrei Kanchelskis made his name with three Ukrainian sides. He came to the attention of Manchester United while playing for Shakhtar Donetsk, and was signed by the English club in 1991.
The player was, therefore, an established part of the United team when the Premier League era began in 1992. He had pace and skill, and an eye for goal. Kanchelskis was also part of a successful Manchester United side that dominated the early years of the EPL. He won six major trophies in England, including two Premier League titles in 1993 and 1994.
Andrei Kanchelskis opted to play for the Russian national team from 1992 onwards, and he won 36 senior caps for his country, scoring nine goals. He later played in England for Everton and Southampton.
Signed by Arsenal from Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2009, Russian international Andrei Arshavin spent four years at the North London club. He will mostly be remembered for scoring all four goals in a match against Liverpool, and that was certainly the highlight of his career in England.
Arshavin was an attacking midfielder whose scoring ratio improved while in the English Premier League. In 105 EPL games for the Gunners, he scored 23 goals. Andrei Arshavin returned to Zenit in 2013. He’d received some criticism for his reluctance to defend, but he was always an attacking threat and an entertaining player to watch.
Alexei Smertin enjoyed a brief, but successful period in English football. The midfielder joined Chelsea from Bordeaux in 2003, but couldn’t nail down a regular place in the Blues’ first team.
Smertin spent time on loan at Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic before returning to Russia on a permanent deal with Dynamo Moscow in 2006. Chelsea fans saw occasional flashes of his top form, and despite his lack of appearances, Smertin won the Premier League title in 2004/05. He finished his career back in West London with Fulham.
After delivering an impressive scoring record with Spartak Moscow, Tottenham Hotspur moved to sign Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko in 2008. While in England, he remained a goal threat and enjoyed a particularly good record in English Cup competitions.
Some of his goals were spectacular long range efforts, and most Spurs fans will fondly remember his time at the club. Pavlyuchenko played 113 games for Tottenham across all competitions, and delivered a respectable 42 goals. He returned to Russia with Lokomotiv Moscow in 2011.
Versatile left sided player Yury Zhirkov is another Russian international who enjoyed success with Chelsea. A highly experienced player, he won over 100 senior caps for his country, and played for seven professional teams in his career.
Zhirkov is another Russian footballer who didn’t get much of a chance to impress English fans. Chelsea signed him from CSKA Moscow in 2009, but he only featured in 29 league games across two seasons. He was used more in cup competitions but was moved on in 2011.
During those two campaigns, Yury Zhirkov won the Premier League in 2009/10, and he was an unused substitute as Chelsea beat Portsmouth in the 2010 FA Cup Final.
Midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov enjoyed a mixed experience in English football while with Everton. He showed great skill and flair but was rarely entrusted with a regular first team place. There was a feeling that it was a workmanlike side and not one that was happy to build itself around the Russian’s creativity.
Bilyaletdinov signed for Everton from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2009. He played 77 games in three campaigns at Goodison Park, scoring nine goals. He’s another Russian player to have been frustrated by a lack of game time, and it’s a shame that Diniyar Bilyaletdinov wasn’t given more of a chance to impress in the EPL.
A striker who developed his reputation with Spartak Moscow and Zenit Saint Petersburg, Pavel Pogrebnyak was spotted by Fulham while playing in Germany with Vfb Stuttgart. He was a tall and powerful forward, and was already an established Russian international when he arrived in English football in 2012.
Pogrebnyak’s brief spell with Fulham was a productive one. It was a loan deal, and he scored six goals for the Cottagers in 12 games. The attacker then joined Reading on a permanent contract, spending one more year in the Premier League, before his side dropped down to the Championship. In a struggling team, Pavel Pogrebnyak’s record of 26 goals in 103 matches for Reading is a respectable one.
Russian football has produced some top class goalkeepers in recent years, and the Premier League saw one of the best. Dmitri Kharine was signed by Chelsea from CSKA Moscow in 1992, and he spent the next seven years at the West London club.
He began as the first choice and was a reliable figure between the posts. This was also a successful period in Kharine’s career as he won four major trophies, including the European Cup Winners Cup in 1998.
Towards the end of his time at Chelsea, Dmitri Kharine became the reserve keeper to Ed de Goey. He eventually moved to Celtic in 1999 where he won more trophies.
It’s clear from these statistics that Russian players enjoyed mixed fortunes in the English Premier League. Some were impressive in the top flight and became first team regulars across a number of seasons.
Others on the list struggled to make a mark on the EPL and were moved on after just a few games for their English clubs. Despite that, both types of players have enjoyed success in English football.
The global situation in 2024 means that the movement of Russian athletes is restricted, so it may be some time before another Russian player breaks through and appears in England’s top division. For now, we can look back on this small group of footballers and consider their achievements in the Premier League.