Russian champions Zenit have been embroiled in an
internal crisis in the past few days, with several senior players
apparently unhappy after the club splashed out more than $100 million on
Brazil striker Hulk and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel just before the transfer deadline.
Zenit demoted captain Igor Denisov to the reserve team on Sunday after he refused to play, issuing an ultimatum to renegotiate his contract. Leading striker Alexander Kerzhakov was also demoted for “improper behaviour”, the club said.
Putin, a St Petersburg native, said Zenit, bankrolled
by Russian energy giant Gazprom, were spending the company’s money
rather than that of the state.