MOSCOW: Ex-Everton winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov has claimed that Premier League referees started discriminating against Russians after FIFA handed the 2018 World Cup to Russia instead of England.

Bilyaletdinov said in a Russian TV interview, according to RIA-Novosti, that this had been a factor in his January move home from Goodison Park to Moscow Spartak.

He told Rossiya-2: “I can say with total certainty that the atmosphere took a turn for the worse after we beat them to the rights to host the World Cup. The  referees didn’t have much sympathy for us. All other things being equal, you’d lose out . . . I left maybe not just for this reason, but what happened, happened.”

Russia was awarded the 2018 tournament in December 2010, 18 months into Bilyaletdinov’s spell with Everton. English media reported numerous claims of corruption and vote-buying by senior FIFA executives, albeit not targeted at the Russian bid.

Bilyaletdinov said he felt the bitterness off the pitch, too. He added: “I felt it in the press, in relationships with people involved in the game. Maybe it was subconscious.”

The Russia international made 59 Premier League appearances for Everton after joining from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2009, scoring eight goals in two and a half years on Merseyside. He  started only  seven of 22 league games at Everton this season.

He has not scored in four appearances for Spartak, and is ruled out until mid-May with a broken bone in his foot.

He has scored six goals in 46 appearances for the Russian national team, and played in every game when Russia reached the semi-finals at Euro 2008.

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