Brazilian football stars keen on Russian passports

Zenit St. Petersburg duo Malcom and Claudinho intend to receive citizenship, officials have confirmed

Brazilian footballers Malcom and Claudinho have asked for advice on receiving Russian citizenship, according to the pair’s club, Zenit St. Petersburg. The duo are among the biggest-name foreign stars currently playing in Russia.

“Malcom and Claudinho, on their own initiative, want to obtain Russian citizenship,” Zenit’s press service confirmed to the Russian media on Monday.

“They asked the club for advice on this issue. We have sent letters to the RFU (Russian Football Union) and the Russian Ministry of Sports. Now we are waiting for an answer on how this is possible.”

Malcom, 25, joined Zenit from Spanish giants Barcelona in the summer of 2019, in a deal worth an initial €40 million ($40 million).  

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Going nowhere: Malcom says he will stay at Zenit. © Mike Kireev / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Big-name Brazilian star won’t quit Russia

His countryman Claudinho, also 25, made the move to northern Russia last summer from Brazilian club Red Bull Bragantino for a reported fee of €15 million ($15 million).

Both players starred as Zenit won a fourth successive Russian Premier League title last season, with Claudinho being named the league’s player of the season.  

The reasons for the pair’s purported interest in obtaining Russian citizenship were not immediately clear.

It was suggested by some in the Russian media that the motivation may be for tax purposes, although elsewhere it was pointed out that foreigners are considered tax residents in Russia if they spend more than 183 days a year in the country – meaning they pay the same 13% personal income rate as nationals.

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Russian champions Zenit are among those involved. © Mike Kireev / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Russian clubs launch legal battle over ‘discriminatory’ FIFA policy – media

There have also been claims that the reason could be a desire to play for the Russian national team.

Malcom and Claudinho were both part of the Brazilian team which won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where Malcom scored the winning goal in the final.

The Olympics, however, are not considered as an official event by FIFA and neither Malcom nor Claudinho has made a senior appearance for their country.

Current FIFA rules would provide hurdles for the players switching to Russia, which would likely involve a wait of several years for eligibility.

The news of interest in Russian citizenship from Malcom and Claudinho also comes despite Russian teams currently being banned from all UEFA and FIFA competitions because of the conflict in Ukraine. 

That has resulted in Zenit being deprived of their place in the UEFA Champions League for the 2022/23 season, with uncertainty over when Russian teams might be welcomed back. 

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© Christian Charisius / picture alliance via Getty Images
Russia World Cup hero breaks hearts with Brazil return

Russia does have a history of naturalized citizens from Brazil who have starred for the national team.

Lokomotiv Moscow goalkeeper Guilherme has been capped 19 times by Russia after gaining citizenship in 2015.

The biggest Brazilian-born success for Russia is undoubtedly defender Mario Fernandes.

The 32-year-old starred in Russia’s 2018 World Cup run on home soil and famously scored a late equalizer against Croatia in the quarterfinals before suffering penalty shootout agony.

Guilherme remains at Lokomotiv Moscow, while Fernandes returned to Brazil earlier this year, citing family reasons.