THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Quota system making players lazy and greedy

icon cappello19 November ~ Russia’s 1-0 defeat to Austria on Saturday was typical of their performances over the last couple of years. Fabio Capello's side showed they can pass the ball and soak up pressure, but lack a sense of urgency and have no Plan B once behind. England fans will be familiar with Capello's refusal to accept the blame for poor performances – against Austria the result was unfair because Russia had stopped them from creating many chances.

Since the World Cup many Russia fans have been calling for Capello to go. Those I went to the match with are, like many, annoyed at his astronomical wage, which is almost £8 million per year. But there is some sympathy as he is now in his fifth month without being paid, something that will have unsettled the side. It's not clear why there is this delay, though some suggest it's part of a wider plot to discredit Russian Football Union president Nikolay Tolstykh – a man who does things his way rather than pander to the big top-flight clubs.

If Capello does go, some question whether there is a decent successor. Fans seem to want a Russian coach: a clear favourite is CSKA Moscow manager Leonid Slutskiy, whose side are in with a good chance of getting out of a tough Champions League group. A popular post-match choice was Mallorca's Valeri Karpin. However, he remains unproven in top-level management, having achieved relatively little during prolonged spells at Spartak Moscow.

The other big issue is the lack of quality Russian players. The current squad bar one all play in Russia, where their places in starting lineups are protected: Russian top-flight clubs currently have to field at least four players eligible for the national side. Though ostensibly there to aid the development of the best Russian players, many fans believe the rule has instead made them lazy and greedy – they know their place is more or less guaranteed in their club side, and they can demand higher wages as clubs need them to meet the quota. Players such as Aleksandr Kokorin would be better off testing themselves in a tougher foreign league, but prefer to stay in Russia where the wages are better.

Increasingly fans believe Capello's best days are behind him (just as with former Russia managers Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat). The official plan is to keep him in post until the 2018 World Cup and he shows no sign of resigning, but many wish the Russian Football Union would cut their losses sooner rather than later. Saul Pope

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