Before Russian players like Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchencko and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov flocked to the Premier League hoping to hit the big time, there was another Russian international that paved the way and set the standard as one of the first foreigners in the Premiership. A cult hero at both Manchester United and Everton, the winger achieved great success in his time in England. Whatever happened to Andrei Kanchelskis?
Joining United for £650,000 in 1991 from Shakhtar Donetsk, Kanchelskis brought blistering pace, flair and skill on the right wing, which perfectly complimented a young Ryan Giggs on the left wing. A fan favourite, Kanchelskis was a key part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s first double-winning side of 1994 and won two Premier League titles, a League Cup and a FA Cup in his time at Old Trafford.
A rumoured fall-out with Sir Alex and a trophy-less season in 1995, where United lost out to Blackburn in the league, saw Kanchelskis deemed expendable, due to the emergence of a certain right winger called David Beckham at Old Trafford. The winger was sold to Everton as part of a complete revamp at the club that summer, as Mark Hughes and Paul Ince were also shown the exit.
At Everton, Kanchelskis quickly became a fan favourite, becoming the club’s top scorer in his first season with 16 goals, including a double in the Merseyside derby and a hat-trick in a demolition of Sheffield Wednesday. Although they finished in sixth place in 1995-96, Everton did not make the UEFA cup and claims that the winger was lazy and disinterested saw him sold to Fiorentina for £8 million midway through his second season at Goodison Park.
Fiorentina hoped that by combining Kanchelskis with fellow stars like Gabriel Batistuta, Rui Costa and Stefan Schwarz would help them lead a challenge for domestic and European glory. But in his two years in Florence, the winger was beset by injuries and Fiorentina only managed to qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Signed by Rangers in 1998, Kanchelskis went on to spend four years at Ibrox and showed glimpses of the talent that led him to become one of the Premiership’s biggest stars. But the winger found himself on the fringes of the first team and then had later stints at clubs like Manchester City and Southampton. A short spell in Qatar with Al-Hilal followed, before Kanchelskis returned to Russia with Saturn Moscow Oblast and Krylia Sovetov.
Despite being born in the Ukraine, Kanchelskis represented the Soviet Union and later Russia at international level, making 36 appearances for his country. After retiring in 2007, Kanchelskis spent two years as a director for Russian club FC Nosta Novotriotsk, and left to club when they got relegated in 2009 to become manager for FC Torpedo-Zil Moscow last December. In the third tier of Russian football, Kanchelskis helped the club finish 14th in the West Zone last season.
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