Moscow – Zenit St. Petersburg pair Igor Denisov and Alexander Kerzhakov have been called into a preliminary 36-man Russia squad for World Cup qualifiers against Portugal and Azerbaijan despite being dropped to the reserves by their club in a salary spat.
Denisov was given the captain’s armband by Russia national football coach Fabio Capello after the Italian axed Andrei Arshavin and a host of other regulars following the country’s failure at Euro 2012.
But Denisov was dropped from the Zenit squad over the weekend after allegedly issuing a pay rise ultimatum following the arrival of high-paid stars Hulk and Axel Witsel.
Kerzhakov, the club’s top striker last season, was also relegated from the team, presumably for taking Denisov’s side.
Nevertheless, they were both in a list of players posted on the Russian Football Union site Thursday. It remains to be seen if they make the final 24-man squad.
Arshavin and Spartak Moscow striker Roman Pavlyuchenko failed to reclaim their places in the squad despite the former scoring a goal and getting three assists in Wednesday’s 6-1 thrashing of Coventry City.
Russia look to maintain a perfect start to qualifying for Brazil after beating Northern Ireland at home 2-0 and Israel away 4-0 earlier this month.
Portugal come to Moscow on Oct 12, with Azerbaijan coming four days later.