Former Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov has been summoned by the Russian forces to fight in Ukraine, according to his father. The 37-year-old, who was born in Moscow, spent 14 years playing professional football before calling time on his career in 2018 – the same year his nation hosted the World Cup finals.
Following five seasons with boyhood club Lokomotiv Moscow after making his debut at the age of 19 in 2004, Bilyaletdinov was snapped up by Everton boss David Moyes – upon the recommendation of national team manager Guus Hiddink – in a deal worth up to £9million.
He would feature more than 60 times for the Toffees, winning the club’s 2009/10 Goal of the Season award for his memorable strike against Manchester United, before heading back to his homeland with Spartak Moscow in January 2012. The versatile utility man earned an impressive 46 caps for Russia and was part of the team that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008.
Following further spells with Anzhi Makhachkala, Torpedo Moscow and Rubin Kazan, Bilyaletdinov’s career eventually came to a close in Lithuania with Trakai, where he finished up with 12 goals in 34 outings.
However, the highs of professional football and the Premier League now seem nothing but a distant memory for Bilyaletdinov, who has been summoned by the Russian army.
His father, Rinat Bilyaletdinov, confirmed the news to Russian media, stating: “Diniyar really received a summons. It is difficult to talk about emotions, because he did not serve, although he did military service, but it was specific, with a sports bias. It was 19 years ago.
“That is, yes, he took the oath but served in the sports line. The law still says – to call people up to 35 years old, and he is 37, so there is some kind of inconsistency here.
“Now he will find out whether this agenda is correct or whether it was sent early. Anything can happen.
“If there was a general mobilisation, then there is no need to ask questions. In the meantime, the president has established a partial one, everything should be according to the law.”
Despite finishing his professional career in 2018, Bilyaletdinov is still understood to be playing football at amateur level but his exploits could now be called to a halt.
His father, who is also a former professional player, remains involved in the game following a coaching career that has spanned some 23 years.
Rinat Bilyaletdinov has managed some of Russia’s biggest clubs including Lokomotiv Moscow and Rubin Kazan. His last job was in 2020, when he coached Olimp-Dolgoprudny in the country’s second division.
Everton, as a club, have felt the full emotional impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine following the January signing of 23-year-old left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kyiv.
The full-back was reduced to tears alongside compatriot and international team-mate Oleksandr Zinchenko during a moving tribute to their homeland before the Premier League clash between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park in February.
Mykolenko would later reveal that the war effort back home in his country put his own personal struggles of moving to Merseyside into perspective.
He said: “Before the war, I thought that my problems were the biggest and now I realise they are small problems.
“When the war started, I would only think about my country and my team and do my best. My parents stay in Kyiv now and we keep in touch with them.
“My friends and relatives are in different places in the country and we try to keep in touch with them, but it is not always possible, but I keep in touch with all of them and thank God they are safe now.”
Everton laid on record their support for the player during the early stages of Russia’s invasion.