Aleksandr Golovin's sensational form has been a major reason behind Monaco's surprise push for the Ligue 1 Uber Eats title in 2020/21 — ligue1.com turns the spotlight on the principality outfit's Russia super-tsar.
"It was the best substitution of my career," said Monaco boss Niko Kovac after seeing Golovin make a game-changing entrance into the 2020/21 Round 18 game at Lorient.
It took just 10 seconds for the Russia international to score — the quickest impact by a substitute since 2007 — and Golovin also provided the assist for Guillermo Maripan to net the principality outfit's last goal in a 5-2 win. What made the sub's performance all the more impressive was that the game on 6 January was Golovin's first Ligue 1 Uber Eats action since suffering a major hamstring injury in late August.
IN FROM THE COLD
Monaco, where a cold day means single figures on the thermometer, must always feel cosy for Golovin, who hails from southern Siberia. Born into a mining family, Golovin started playing football aged six. His progress eventually led him to join the regional team representing Siberia — it was with that squad that Russian top-flight giants CSKA Moscow spotted Golovin's talent.
Alexei Smertin at Bordeaux was probably the Russian footballer who had had the most impact on Ligue 1 until Golovin came to Monaco in 2018. And Golovin has his very own place in French football history as the first Russian to score a hat-trick in the country's top division. The date: 7 February, 2021. The place: Nîmes' Stade des Costières. Golovin netted three times to make it 3-2 to Monaco before also teeing up Kevin Volland for what would be the matchwinner.
"Golovin is a fantastic player," said Kovac. "For his first start since August, he's scored three goals. He's a world-class player. He delivers delicious passes. I know the quality of his passing. That's why I asked him to take the free-kick that led to the third goal."
MADE IN MOSCOW
After making his CSKA first-team debut in the Russian Cup in September 2014, Golovin had to wait until March 2015 to see action in the Russian Premier League. In three seasons in the Russian capital, Golovin scored 13 goals and registered 11 assists in 113 competitive appearances, and helped CSKA claim the Russian title in 2016.
WORLD CUP STAR
Hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup meant Russia wanted a good showing from their side. They reached the quarter-finals, and that feat was thanks in large part to Golovin. He ensured the host nation got off to a flying start with a goal and two assists in the 5-0 opening-game win over Saudi Arabia.
"I don't get the impression I'm a hero. The whole team played well," he explained modestly. "For the moment, I'm putting all the rumours of a transfer to one side." Twenty days after Russia were knocked out on penalties by eventual runners-up Croatia, Golovin put pen to paper in Monaco.