Football: Forgotten Gunner Arshavin to return home to Zenit

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's former international football captain Andrei Arshavin has agreed a two-year deal to return to his native club Zenit St Petersburg after a frustrating half-decade at London's Arsenal, Zenit announced on Thursday.

The return of Arshavin, 32, to Zenit had been rumoured in the Russian press for several days but the final signing of the deal had apparently been delayed by wrangling over the small print.

"One of the best footballers in Russia of the last decade is returning to his home city," Zenit said in a statement, confirming that the contract was for two years.

He will formally join Zenit from July 1 once his Arsenal contract expires, Zenit said.

Arshavin, born in St Petersburg in 1981 when it was still known as Leningrad under Soviet rule, started his career in the Zenit reserves in 1999 while still a teenager.

Almost a decade at the club saw him score 71 goals in 310 matches and win the Russian Premier League title in 2007, as well as the Uefa Cup in 2008. He also lit up the 2008 European Championship, where Russia reached the semi finals.

But his move to Arsenal failed to live up to initial expectations and the midfielder spent most of his time on the bench and clearly felt wasted under manager Arsene Wenger.

Most in Russia now expect Arshavin to see out the rest of his career at Zenit and seek to help the club win back the premier league title they lost last season to arch-rivals CSKA Moscow.

The signing was seen as inevitable after his request to return was backed by the club owners - state-run gas giant Gazprom - irrespective of the opinion of Zenit's Italian manager Luciano Spalletti.

"We have to remember that Arshavin is a product of Zenit. And I think it right that a product of Zenit finishes his career at his native club," Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller was quoted as saying at the weekend.

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