Lokomotiv Moscow star Maicon wants to play for Russia
Lokomotiv Moscow's young Brazilian forward Maicon Marques Bitencourt, a runner-up at the 2009 U20 World Cup, has expressed a desire and readiness to play for Russia at international level.
"I would never reject a proposal to play for Russia if I received it," the 23-year-old striker, who started his professional career with Brazilian giants Fluminense, was quoted as saying by Sport Express daily.
"I'd accept it with the utmost pleasure and would play for the Russian squad with all my devotion."
Maicon added that he had been dreaming of playing for the country of his birth since he was a chiled, but that the level of competition was so high that it made it very difficult.
"Besides, the national team managers usually watch closely the careers of those who play in Brazil or in the leading European clubs and call them first into the squad."
The Russian authorities have given fast-track citizenship to top athletes in other sports, most notably the former South Korean Olympic short track speed skating champion Ahn Hyun-Soo who will compete for Russia at the Sochi Olympics.
A top foreign-born star has yet to be offered a place in the Russian football squad although there was talk a few years back of Spartak Moscow's Brazilian player Welliton taking Russian citizenship.
Nevertheless, the use of foreign-born players could be a welcome option for Russia coach Fabio Capello as he seeks to turn the team into worldbeaters ahead of Russia's hosting of the World Cup in 2018.
Maicon, who joined Lokomotiv in 2010, also said that the Russian Premier League was improving rapidly in quality in recent years.
"Russian football is currently on the rise. And the recent results of the country's national squad and the clubs confirm it.
"Meanwhile, the game in the Premiership is rapidly changing into more technical and spectacular style," Maicon said.
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