Paul Wilkes profiles the exciting youngster who caught the eye of Jose Mourinho while at the Bernabeu...
The 60-second story
The Russian winger moved to Spain at the age of five, with his dad Dmitri joining Sporting Gijon. Young Denis also signed for the club from Asturias and subsequently followed his father to Segunda Division B club Burgos in 2000.
- Date of birth: December 26, 1990
- Place of birth: Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
- Height: 5ft 10in
- Position: Winger
- Club: Real Madrid
- Former club(s): Sevilla, Villarreal
- International: Russia (7 caps)
When Dimitri began coaching one of the youth teams at Real Madrid, his son also moved to the capital and it was there that his vocation started to take its own path. Dmitri departed after two years, but Denis continued his progression at Los Blancos as he played for the Castilla side.
Jose Mourinho handed him his full debut for Real Madrid, featuring against Alcoyano in a Copa del Rey clash. After the match, Cheryshev divulged what the Portuguese coach had told him before the encounter: "He said that I have to play like I do for the Castilla and that he has confidence in me."
Unfortunately that was the only time Cheryshev played a competitive game for Madrid, although he did gain some minutes in friendlies against LA Galaxy and Everton. With Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, he spent the next two seasons on loan at Sevilla and Villarreal.
Having suffered continual injury problems in Andalusia, it was at El Madrigal last season where Cheryshev finally began to fulfil his promise at the top level. A goal on his debut against Levante was followed by a number of impressive performances. He also netted in encounters with Real Sociedad and Barcelona.
Despite the fact he admits to feeling more "Spanish than Russian", he has represented his country of birth on a number of occasions. Fabio Capello told him he needed to start regularly for his club to continue his ascent internationally, and although the Italian is no longer Russia coach, the reality still remains.
Having suffered continual injury problems in Andalusia, it was at El Madrigal last season when Cheryshev finally began to fulfil his promise at the top level
Why you need to know him
Even though Cheryshev hasn't had much of an opportunity at the Bernabeu, that shouldn't detract from his ability. When you have Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Isco and Jese ahead of you, it's always plausible that a move away is required to reach maximum potential. At 24, it's time for the wide midfielder to make a permanent switch to another club that can give him more assurances over his time on the pitch.
He was happy to stay at Villarreal, but the £22 million price tag is too high for manager Marcelino, who tends to have a high turnover of young attackers as he loans players in for a year at a time and aids their evolution towards becoming first-team regulars at their parent side.
Arsenal's Joel Campbell, Barcelona's Joan Angel Roman and Atletico Madrid-owned Oliver Torres have all passed through the revolving door at Villarreal in the previous two years.
This experience has been crucial in Cheryshev's development and has enabled him to appear in the Europa League and make significant contributions in the race to qualify for European competition, standing out among his peers in games against Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.
Cheryshev is your typical old-fashioned winger with speed, mobility and dribbling skills to match. A solid first touch gives him plenty of time on the ball, while his pace ensures his suitability to a counter-attacking philosophy. He's not the strongest crosser of the ball, preferring to cut inside and make key passes rather than reach the byline and provide centres. His through-balls are a striker's dream, and only Ronaldo and Koke registered more than his seven assists in the opening four months of last term.
In the defensive third, he tracks opposition defenders and works hard to make challenges. Just three Villarreal players last season averaged more tackles per game than Cheryshev, and they were full-backs.
Cheryshev's made significant contributions in the race to qualify for European competition, standing out among his peers in games against Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao
He faded towards the end of last term, but as it was his first full La Liga campaign that's to be expected. It's arguable he should have achieved more for his age, although that could work to his advantage as a late developer and what he accomplishes in the next three years will define his career. His six goals for the 'Yellow Submarine' would certainly have doubled if he was a little more ruthless in front of goal, albeit a number of his assists were as a result of his awareness to spot fellow attackers in better positions.
"We will see what happens, but today it's not confirmed where he is going to play, we will exhaust the possibilities of incorporating him because we consider him to be an important player and he's adapted to our way of playing," said Marcelino on the winger's arrival at Villarreal.
Did you know?
His dad was also a Russian international and made 10 appearances for his country. As a striker he only hit the net once for his national side, although he did score over 100 goals in his playing career. He was nicknamed the 'Bullet from Gorki' due to his exceptional speed, which his son appears to have inherited.
What happens next?
- Shooting 6
- Heading 8
- Passing 5
- Tackling 5
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 8
- Creativity 8
- Work-rate 8
"My future affects many areas so it’s not so simple," admitted Cheryshev recently. "I need to return to Real Madrid, and they in turn need to decide what to do. Once the club has decided, then we have to just take things from there." New boss Rafa Benitez is happy to listen to offers for the playmaker, although he doesn't want him to leave unless he can secure a replacement.
Some reports indicate that Liverpool have already bid for his services as they seek to replace Raheem Sterling and that Madrid are currently mulling over the offer. However, others believe that the Anfield side's focus on a new striker could slow any possible deal for the Russian. Everton and Tottenham have both expressed interest in the past.