Two Russian players, striker Alexandr Kokorin and midfielder Pavel Mamaev, have denied spending a vast sum on champagne in the aftermath of their abysmal Euro 2016 campaign.
As reported in The Guardian, several major news outlets in Russia suggested that the players had ordered 500 bottles of Armand de Brignac champagne during a night out at the Twiga nightclub, spending €250,000 on drinks alone. Footage has emerged from the venue in Monte Carlo, showing waiters passing around sparklers attached to champagne bottles as the Russian national anthem plays in the background.
Both players have now been demoted to their clubs' youth teams, while they have also been hit with significant fines. Mamaev's employers, FC Krasnodar, said that his actions were "outrageous and unacceptable". Kokorin's club, Zenit St Petersburg, professed their "extreme disappointment" with his behaviour, and added: "Unfortunately, some Russian players can find themselves in these scandalous situations due to a lack of common sense."
A spokesman for Vladimir Putin lambasted the players for their "shameless display of conceit" in attending the nightclub. However, he acknowledged conflicting reports in the Russian media, some of which suggest the players did not actually pay for the drinks.
Both Mamaev and Kokorin have denied that they spent €250,000 at the nightclub, and that they were partying in spite of Russia's embarrassing failure at the Euros. Kokorin told Sports.ru: "Somebody was celebrating their birthday and we were simply there. Naturally, everybody saw the bottles and heard the Russian anthem, but why put all this on us?"
Meanwhile, the owner of the club – former QPR chairman Flavio Briatore – has corroborated the players' version of events, and defended them from the criticism they have received in the Russian press. In an impassioned Instagram post, he wrote: "These two guys, Kokorin and Mamaev, came for dinner with their wives. After dinner they stayed in the club to smoke shisha.
"There was a private party organised by some Russians. They recognised Kokorin and Mamaev and as a sign of respect, as they are fans, they started sending them bottles of champagne and they asked our DJ to play the Russian national anthem.
"Then other Russian clients also wanted to show their respect and sent the two players other bottles, so Kokorin and Mamaev had the table full of bottles. The funny thing is that the guys are not even drinking alcohol."