6 August ~ As the forest fires blaze across Russia, Spartak Moscow remain determined to sign Celtic winger Aiden McGeady ahead of a clutch of English Premier League sides. Russian daily Sport Express has published details of a trip he’s just made to the Russian capital: as well as being shown various elite flats and offered £40,000 per week (making him the club’s highest earner), he’s been promised his own driver, translator and, if he wants one, a personal bodyguard. He’s also been told that if he doesn’t like the menu at Spartak Moscow’s club refectory, two chefs will prepare any meal he wants.
McGeady and his girlfriend were suitably impressed by the trip, the main negative apparently being the smog currently hanging over the city. The transfer story has been dragging on for months and remains the most boring of the Russian summer, but in the light of the number of people being killed and left homeless by the fires across the country, it has suddenly taken on a surreal, ugly quality we usually associate with stories about the Premier League’s pampered elite – it seems the Russians too have begun to wrap their prized assets in cotton wool.
If he does sign, the chances are it won’t work out. Although Brazilian and eastern European signings have thrived in the Russian league over the last ten years, players from western Europe and their families have generally struggled to get used to the different culture, the difficult language and the harsh winters (the Russian season tends to start and finish when snow is on the ground). The only other player from the British Isles to play in Russia, Birmingham City’s Garry O’Connor, was also offered a "life-changing"contract, but managed just a season before stating that he and his family wanted to return home. If it is only the big money that tempts McGeady to Russia, the player has hopefully realised that no amount of it will make the country as easy to live in as the UK.
McGeady also has work to do if he wants to win over the fans – his delay in signing has led many to conclude that it is only the money he’s interested in. Many believe that Spartak are paying over the odds given he’s coming to Russia with a decent (but not outstanding) record, and wonder why he needs a bodyguard. Most comments relating to his special dietary plans are unprintable, though the Russian sense of humour has not been totally lost. Alluding to the famous planes sent up to disperse clouds before big events in Soviet times, one messageboarder asked: "Why didn’t they just blow away the smoke from in front of him? Then there would have been nothing to complain about." Saul Pope