'World Cup a stepping stone for Premier League target Smolov' - Kerzhakov

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The Russian striker has impressed domestically and now has the opportunity to showcase his ability to a wider audience

Reported West Ham target Fedor Smolov has been urged to use the World Cup to set up a move to a major European league by his nation's top goalscorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov.

Smolov has scored 63 goals from his 99 appearances in all competitions for FC Krasnodar, who he joined in 2015 from his boyhood club Dynamo Moscow.

The 28-year-old's impressive form over the last three seasons has fuelled talk that he may be about to move to England, with West Ham, Wolves and Fulham reportedly tracking the Russia international, who had a brief, unsuccessful stint in the Netherlands with Feyenoord earlier in his career.

Kerzhakov, who was playing for Dynamo Moscow when Smolov was breaking into the first team, has called for his former team-mate to use this tournament to push through his big move this summer.

“I’ve known Fedia since his first steps into the professional world," Kerzhakov told Goal . "He and Aleksandr Kokorin were just starting out at Dynamo Moscow when I landed there from Sevilla. So I saw his first goals, his first exploits at the highest level.

“I have always said that they are two very talented players. They do not have the same style, but they are two great attackers.

“Unfortunately, Kokorin will not be able to participate in this World Cup, but I believe that Fedor Smolov will succeed in showing himself. I would very much like this competition to be a kind of stepping stone for him to move to a big European league from next season.”

Smolov, who has scored 12 goals in 32 appearances for Russia, will be aiming to follow on from his good form domestically by spearheading his country's performance at the World Cup.

The host nation kick-off the tournament on Thursday against Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow before facing  Mo Salah’s Egypt and 2010 World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay in their group.

Zenit St Petersburg legend Kerzhakov feels Russia can perform strongly in the tournament, but is concerned about the injuries which have impacted on coach Stanislav Cherchesov's plans.

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“I am naturally very concerned for our team, which I will still support a lot," he said. "But I think our team can achieve high results.

“Obviously, the injuries of the players are problematic, especially those who had to play in the starting line-up.

“But we have an experienced coach. No one is safe from injury, but I’m sure guys will face it. And they will be doubly motivated, to make happy those who have been deprived of the tournament.”

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