Warsaw: At Euro 2008 Igor Denisov's name was mud with Russia's then coach Dutchman Guus Hiddink -- roll forward four years and he is being hailed by Hiddink's successor compatriot Dick Advocaat as their man of the match against Poland in last Tuesday's Group A clash.
Many were surprised that it was Denisov and not captain Andrei Arshavin who got Advocaat's nod of approval for the outstanding performance in the Poland game.
"Arshavin is the most dangerous, the most able on the ball, but he commits errors in defence," was the ever demanding Advocaat's firm response.
It has, however, been a long road that Denisov has had to travel to earn such plaudits.
The 28-year-old defensive midfielder snubbed Hiddink when he received a late call-up for the 2008 tournament, taking umbrage at being selected only because of a lengthening injury list after not making even the preliminary squad.
The Zenit Saint-Petersburg star, though, didn't pay too heavily for that piece of petulance or for the fact Russia did extremely well without him reaching the semi-finals.
Hiddink let bygones be bygones and recalled him to the squad for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers but they were to come to a painful end with defeat by unfancied Slovenia in the play-offs for a place in South Africa.
This was to prove the turning point for Denisov's Damascene conversion from rebel and regular offender on the pitch - picking up yellow and red cards as if they were going out of business - to the more disciplined model now on show at Euro.
"The Slovenian fiasco in the play-offs which deprived us of a place at the World Cup finals had a profound effect on me," he said recently.
With this new-found calmness also came a determination that it should be channeled into achieving something with the national side.
"I believe that the time has come for the Russia team to win a major championship," he said.
"The European championship presents an excellent opportunity."
Denisov's transformation may also be due to the fact that Advocaat replaced Hiddink after the World Cup flop and both knew each other well from the successful spell that the 64-year-old Dutchman spent at Zenit.
Indeed, Denisov scored in the most prestigious success under Advocaat's tenure there the 2008 UEFA Cup triumph over Scottish side Rangers.
It was also at that time that Denisov played alongside the player he regards as his inspiration, Ukrainian midfielder Anatoli Tymoshchuk, who subsequently moved on to Bayern Munich.
"The years I spent at his side changed my approach as to how to play the game," he said.
"I became more professional, as a result of observing his irreproachable attitude day after day."
Story first published on: Saturday, 16 June 2012 11:26 IST