CSKA Moscow’s Brazilian fullback Mario Fernandes will be able to play for Russia after he was granted citizenship via a presidential decree.
President Vladimir Putin rubber-stamped the 25-year-old’s application for a passport, making Fernandes the third foreign-born footballer to receive Russian citizenship over the past year.
Fenerbahce defender Roman Neustadter and Lokomotiv Moscow’s goalkeeper Guilherme each received Russian passports ahead of Euro 2016 and were included in the squad for the tournament.
“I am proud of becoming Russian,” Fernandes said. “Russia became my second home after I had joined CSKA FC.
“I want to play for this country’s national team and I will do everything I can to be useful to the club and to the state.”
Fernandes joined CSKA from Brazilian side Gremio in 2012 for $12 million. During his time in Russia he has won three Premier League titles, one Russian Cup and a Russian Super Cup.
The news is a boost to Team Russia as they begin their preparations to host the 2018 World Cup.
Failure to reach the finals in 2006 and 2010 saw Fabio Capello appointed as head coach, but despite qualifying 2014 World Cup in Brazil, they were eliminated at the first stage.
The Italian continued in his role, but after some shaky performances during qualifying for Euro 2016, Capello was sacked.
CSKA boss Leonid Slutsky took over and safely guided Russia to the finals in France, but they were knocked out in the group stage after collecting just one point from three games.
Slutksy quit after Russia’s disappointing exit, leaving the national team in 38th place in the FIFA rankings – just one spot above its worst result posted in December 1998.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko recently vowed to improve the country’s fortunes on the international stage and Fernandes’ new citizenship will undoubtedly help his cause.
“It is impossible to change everything in an instant,” Mutko said.
“In order to progress we first of all need to leave behind this result [of 2016 Euro Cup] and define the new level of our football.
“Indeed, we have unmotivated players and have players, who have no desire playing for the national team – so make them not play.
“The most important task for today is to find a new head coach and select guys who have the desire playing for the national squad.”
Source: Daily News