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Star footballer rules out playing for Russia

Zenit Saint Petersburg player Claudinho was granted Russian citizenship two months ago

Brazilian-born football star Claudinho, who has represented Zenit Saint Petersburg in the Russian Premier League since 2021, has ruled out playing for the Russian national team and says that he will instead await an approach from the country of his birth.

The 26-year-old, who was voted by his peers as the best player in Russia’s top flight in his debut season in 2021, was among 38 people granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin in February – a move which potentially opened the door to representing the country on the international stage from 2026.

However, speaking with RIA Novosti Sport, he instead said that he believes his international future lies with Brazil.

“At the moment I don’t think about it and I can’t even imagine why I will be called up to the Russian team,” Claudinho said in comments published on Saturday. “There are many talented and high-quality football players worthy of playing for the national team.” 

He added: “Any Brazilian boy from childhood dreams of getting into the [Brazilian] national team.”

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Malcom has played in Russia since 2019.
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It has been suggested that the reason for foreign players’ pursuit of Russian citizenship is largely related to tax concessions, according to Dmitry Khomukha, a former coach of a Russian youth team. In addition to Claudinho, another of Zenit’s Brazilian imports, Malcom, has also received Russian nationality.

“I have a negative attitude towards the naturalization of football players,” Khomukha said in February. “Here the monetary interest of the players themselves play a role. Income tax will be reduced by 15%. This is the main reason.” 

Russian football icon Andrei Kanchelskis, meanwhile, said that Claudinho’s actions are “adequate and normal.”

“I think it’s funny that we associate citizenship with playing in the national team,” he said on Saturday via Sport.ru. “French actor Gerard Depardieu also received Russian citizenship, but this does not oblige him to act in Russian cinema.” 

Russian national and club teams remain banned from international competition by decree of FIFA and UEFA “until further notice” due to sanctions introduced shortly after the launch of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine last year.

April 23, 2023 at 12:46AM

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