31.10.2015 03:00 h

Russia's Dzyuba comes good for club and country

Russian striker Artyom Dzyuba was once told he'd never be world class, but star turns for his club Zenit and goals for the national team in qualifying for Euro 2016 have put him centre stage.

The frontman has formed a deadly double act in Russia's Premier League with Brazilian striker Hulk, and the pair are now joint-top scorers with seven goals each so far this season.

"It's the best period in my career so far," Dzyuba said after scoring a brace in a recent 5-1 thrashing of Anzhi Makhachkala.

"I do not compete with Hulk. He has set up many of my goals with his through balls and I try to pay him back," the 27-year-old said.

Dzyuba's hot streak put him in the reckoning for the national team under new boss Leonid Slutsky after he'd been almost completely ignored by Italian coach Fabio Capello, who was sacked in July.

Slutsky's newfound trust seems to have inspired Dzyuba and the forward has bagged six goals in Russia's last four games -- helping the squad to qualify for Euro 2016 after a poor start to the campaign under Capello.

"I'm also looking forward to Euro-2016 as we have battled back hard under Slutsky," Dzyuba said. "He's a great manager and I believe we can achieve something in France."

The man of the moment for the national team comes from an unremarkable background in his home city of Moscow.

The son of a policeman and a sales assistant, Dzyuba started his fledgling football career in Spartak's youth academy at the age of eight.

In 2006 he made his first team debut for his local club and quickly became an integral player for Spartak, notching five goals in 27 games that season as the club finished runners-up in the Premier League.

Despite the promising start, things started going sour for Dzyuba the following season as the arrival of Danish coach Michael Laudrup saw him lose his place in the starting lineup.

The next two seasons Dzyuba spent on loan at Siberian club Tom Tomsk, where he scored 15 goals in 43 matches before returning to try to break into the Spartak team.

However, Dzyuba failed to become Spartak's first team forward under the club's next coaches: Spaniard Unai Emeri, former Russian international midfielder Valery Karpin and the Swiss Murat Yakin.

After a successful 2013-14 season on loan again at Rostov, Dzyuba returned to Spartak again but did not renew his contract as the offer on the table from the club did not match his financial demands.

That meant the time had come to sever his ties with his boyhood club and in February 2015 Dzyuba decided to move north, putting pen to paper on a deal with rivals and reigning-champions Zenit.

Under Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas, Dzyuba's knack for finding the back of the net quickly began to shine through again and he started banging in the goals shortly after his debut to beat out tough competition from Venezuelan Salomon Rondon, thus sealing his place alongside Hulk.

And despite a stuttering start to the season that has seen them lose ground to CSKA Moscow, Dzyuba hopes he can help his team bounce back to do well in Europe.

"Zenit are currently eight points behind CSKA but we believe we can close this gap as we want to retain our Russian title," Dzyuba said.

"We've made a good start in the Champions League and have a fair chance to make it into its knockout stages."

Zenit travel to Lyon for a Champions League group game on Wednesday.