After Roman Abramovich’s purchase of the club in 2003, Chelsea have signed a couple of players from the owner’s nation across different seasons.
First up is a central midfielder, who spent most his career in West London out on loan.
This week’s Forgotten Blue is Alexey Smertin.
In the years prior to his move to Stamford Bridge, Smertin played for a number of seasons for a few clubs. He played for the likes of Dinamo Barnual, FC Zarya Leninsk-Kuznetsky, Uralan Elista, Lokomotiv Moscow in his native Russia, as well as French club Bordeaux.
In August 2003, he earned his move to the Premier League and then-manager Claudio Ranieri signed the midfielder for £3.45m. However, he was immediately loaned out to fellow-Premier League side Portsmouth.
After impressing on loan at Fratton Park during the 2003/04 season, Smertin returned to Stamford Bridge. But the manager who signed him had been replaced by Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese signed Tiago to add to his midfield, which already had the likes of Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele, Geremi, and Scott Parker competing for spots.
As a result, Smertin did not feature regularly for the Blues, and made 16 appearances for the Blues, but he did make enough appearances to earn a winners’ medal as Chelsea won their first title in 50 years during the 2004/05 season. The Russian also scored his first, and only, goal for the club in a Champions League game against Porto.
The following season saw Smertin sent out on loan again. He would spend the majorirty of the 2005/06 season on loan at Charlton Athletic. At the club, he was a regular starter and eventually earned interest from clubs back home.
In March 2006, he left Chelsea permanently. He returned to Russia, signing for Dynamo Moscow. Despite only signing a few months previously, Smertin was transfer listed by the club as the manager wanted to rebuild his side for the 2006/07 season.
He returned to West London, and signed for Fulham. He started life at Craven Cottage well, before the signing of Danny Murphy limited the Russian’s opportunities. Struggling with injuries, manager Roy Hodgson would often prefer the midfield partnership of Murphy and Simon Davies.
After a year at the club, he was informed he could leave the club, and his contract was eventually cancelled in August 2008. He didn’t find a new club and would retire from football. Since retiring from football, Smertin went into politics in Russia. In March 2009, he was appointed as an MP for the Altai region of his home nation.
With the World Cup in Russia coming up in the summer, we will see a lot of Smertin in upcoming months. Earlier this year, he was appointed as the Russian Football Union’s anti-racism and discrimination inspector.