Alan Dzagoev for Daily Mail: I was ready to join Tottenham in 2012

The man who is aiming to knock Tottenham out of Europe is recalling the time he hoped they would make his dreams come true.

In the summer of 2012, after emerging from the European Championship as one of the hottest talents on the continent, Alan Dzagoev thought he was destined to end up at White Hart Lane.

He had grown up in Russia watching the Premier League, so the constant chatter about Tottenham left him wondering whether this would be his moment.

‘People asked me: “Do you want to join Spurs?” – and yes, I really wanted to,’ said the CSKA Moscow forward.

‘I was ready to play in England, ready to move. But CSKA didn’t receive a firm offer. I like the English Premier League. So to play for a serious English club would be great for me. I don’t remember interest from other English clubs. Except Chelsea.’

Chelsea? While Tottenham made encouraging noises about signing Dzagoev, who is the captain of Russia and the most important player for club and country, the closest he actually came to reaching England was three years earlier. Chelsea wanted to take him from CSKA and sign him for their academy.

‘That was long time ago,’ he says. ‘I was 18, my career had just begun. I thought about their offer seriously. But I wanted to play football.

Chelsea? While Tottenham made encouraging noises about signing Dzagoev, who is the captain of Russia and the most important player for club and country, the closest he actually came to reaching England was three years earlier. Chelsea wanted to take him from CSKA and sign him for their academy.

‘That was long time ago,’ he says. ‘I was 18, my career had just begun. I thought about their offer seriously. But I wanted to play football.

‘At Chelsea I would have played for the reserves and sometimes the first team in the League Cup or FA Cup. I dreamt about Chelsea but about the senior team. So, I think, it was a right decision not to join Chelsea in 2009.

‘I still wanted to play in Europe. Russian players must play in Europe to become better players. There is the only way. I speak not only about the Premier League. La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1. To play in England – it’s always special feelings. Fantastic atmosphere, great fans.’

He may not have signed for Chelsea but they still left an indelible mark. Dzagoev, who has attracted interest from Everton, Swansea and West Ham ahead of the January window, explains his hero is Frank Lampard.

‘He was my favourite player,’ said Dzagoev. ‘His was a fantastic story. A man without great physical abilities or talent became a superstar. He is workaholic and always make right decisions. And his free-kicks… Oh my God, its unbelievable! In childhood I watched every Chelsea game and tried to play like Lampard, to shoot free-kicks like Lampard.

‘Now everybody tries to stand like Cristiano Ronaldo before shooting. But I imitated Frank’s style of free-kicks, his corners too. No, I wasn’t so successful like him. But Frank Lampard, for me… he is the ideal box-to-box midfielder. Surely I am not in the same league as him.’

This is a moment of self-deprecation but Dzagoev’s honours list shows why he has been put on such a pedestal in Russia. He has won three league titles, four cups and when the nation stages the World Cup in two years, he will be the one carrying hopes and dreams. His absence from Euro 2016 was a key reason why Russia underwhelmed.

Before then, though, he wants to keep pushing himself and there could be no better stage for him to sparkle on than Wembley. He scoffs at the idea there is little riding on the outcome of the final Group E game and says his aim is to show he can play at this level frequently.

‘The Champions League is the best club tournament in the world,’ he said. ‘Our aim was to go through to the knockout stages, but, unfortunately, we failed. But we are focused right now, we need to win and want to play in the Europa League, no doubt. Tottenham have been poor at Wembley? I hope their bad form will continue.

‘Maybe, Spurs will lose another match at Wembley. But seriously, I cant talk about influence of the stadium, I’m not a Tottenham player.

‘For every Russian player the Champions League is a great experience. Our championship is a little bit slow. The speed of the Champions League game is faster. I want to play this speed every week.’

By Dominic King for Daily Mail Online

 

 

 

 

 

 

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