Yuri Lodygin: How a dubious decision led to great results


Yuri Lodygin has been the starter goalkeeper for FC Zenit for the past five years or so since joining from Greek first tier club AO Xanthi for € 500.000 in July 2013. With Vyacheslav Malafeev being solid guarding the Sine-belo-golubye goal, he was originally brought to St Petersburg for a backup role, but the former Russian international’s injury, gave Yuri the chance to shine, which he absolutely grabbed proceeding to make 163 official appearances for Zenit as for today according to Transfermarkt.

Lodygin’s time at St Petersburg has also seen him become part of a four title winning team (1 Russian League title in 2015, 1 Russian Cup in 2016 and 2 Russian Super Cups in 2016 and 2017), as well as provided him with the opportunity to become a 11 time Russian international participating in both 2014 Word Cup and 2016 Euro.

Despite recent Andrey Lunev’s good appearances which seem to have put a tough task ahead of Yuri to reclaim his starting position and national team spot, his overall Zenit career till today can be described as rather successful, highlighted by some great some as shown below.

These five years have established Lodygin as a well-known figure among Russian football fans, but only few remember nowadays it was one of Yuri’s hardest and most speculated life decisions to join Zenit the time he did.

Yuri was born in Vladimir in 26 May 1990 to a Russian father, and a Pontic Greek mother. The family moved to Greece when he was 10, so there it was that he made his first steps into the footballing world.

The summer of 2006, 16 year-old Yuri joined AO Skoda Xanthi (they later stopped their cooperation with Skoda) youth team after a trial. Three years later he signed his first professional contract but it wasn’t until the last game of the 2011-12 season that he made his official debut following a loan spell at Eordaikos. Next season though he would be the starting goalkeeper of the club which in turn opened the path for him to participate in 6 matches with Greece U21 national team and eventually get called to join the Greek senior national squad in May 2013 by then manager Fernando Santos.

In what was a highly discussed topic in Greece, he never got capped eventually, while at the same time, major Greek clubs such as PAOK and Olympiakos, declared interest, but, according to his words, in a 2015 interview, they never made an official offer. And that’s exactly when Zenit made their own offer and signed the talented keeper who later said that “It was my goal to play for the Greek national team and stay in Greece.” But “I have no regrets on deciding to go to Russia” as “I could not ignore a proposition such as Zenit’s”.

What was dubious about such a decision whatsoever is not accepting an offer from a club with Zenit’s power and reputation. It is the fact that in spite of being a part of Greek national team by then, even though not capped yet, Lodygin chose to drop that chance and agree to play for the respective Russian national team in what seemed a risky choice, given he was not offered a spot straightaway.

Apparently, Yuri believed in himself, tried hard, established himself as an important unit in the Zenit squad the past years, and won his international call up.

His story comes to serve as a career lesson to anybody who wants to be a winner. Playing safe feels good, but it was the risk he took that helped him get his game to the next level. Listening to nice comments from the media can be indulging but ignoring them was the right way to boost Yuri’s career. Having aspirations is great but it was listening to Zenit’s board and staff that persuaded him to switch national teams was a key element for establishing himself as a starter.

I personally admire Yuri Lodygin for these commitments, as being a role model for stepping out of one’s comfort zone, in never an easy task, and it is really beautiful seeing people actually doing it and achieving theirs dreams.

PS. A shout out to the 2013 Zenit coaching staff for trusting a young promising but inexperienced goalkeeper to be a starter in his first season with a huge club.