Date: 24 November 2014, 09:00
Source: CEV
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Benjamin Toniutti joins the ranks of Zenit KAZAN

The setter of France’s national team and Italy’s CMC RAVENNA, Benjamin Toniutti, signed on Friday for Russia’s heavyweight Zenit KAZAN, thereby opening a totally different chapter in his professional career.

“My agent called me about ten days ago to inform me that there was a chance for a transfer to Zenit,” Toniutti reveals. “I told him that I was interested as long as an agreement could be found with CMC RAVENNA since I did not want to put any pressure on my Italian team. Since they [CMC RAVENNA] lost one of their sponsors from last year, I think that they were in need of money and therefore they were keen to find an agreement with the Russian team.”

Toniutti will now have the opportunity to join the world’s most competitive national league. “We know that this is a very physical league and there is no doubt that the Russian championship is the best in the world right now. I am arriving by the time the season has already started and they have a group with certain chemistry, so it is going to be difficult. However, I do feel a bit reassured since their coach speaks French. This can ease up my integration as well as my understanding of his instructions during our practices. I still did not have the chance to talk to Vladimir Alekno. When I signed the contract they were busy with a Champions League match versus Olympiacos and after that they immediately travelled back home for another game of their national league. I think we will be able to talk a bit and get to know each other beginning of next week. At this stage I have only spoken to their manager in order to get some paperwork sorted.”

This transfer definitely raises Toniutti’s career to a different level: “If they have decided to recruit a foreign player to compensate for the departure of Matthew Anderson, this means that they did not have somebody that could live up to their expectations,” says the Frenchman. “I know they are waiting for me to arrive and there will be a lot of pressure to stand since this is a club where you are somehow obliged to win. This is the first time I will find myself in such situation but I am not scared. I could not miss on this opportunity and I want to show that I deserve the trust they have put in me. I expect to depart on Thursday, I am still waiting for my visa; it takes a little bit of time… After that, if my license is issued in due time, I think I may debut already this coming weekend as Zenit will be playing a difficult home match against Dinamo MOSCOW.”

Toniutti will join the Russian Superleague after finishing fourth at this year’s FIVB Men’s World Championship in Poland: “I believe that I have been given this opportunity thanks to our successful campaign with the national team,” he acknowledges. “If we had finished thirteenth, I would not be moving to Kazan now; that is for sure. The World Championship have provided me with a unique stage where to perform even though we still have some regrets after losing the bronze medal match with Germany. Every time I review footage of these days, I get goose bumps because we really got to experience something special. We still have a bitter taste but we can be very proud of what we achieved at this World Championship.”

Toniutti is not the only elite French player to have signed a transfer these days since Kevin Le Roux will also leave Italy and the team of Copra Volley PIACENZA to move to Korea and play there for Cheonan Hyundai.