The club that Wilfredo Leon will play at next season has been the topic of many volleyball discussions, from online message boards to the boardrooms of top clubs in Italy and Russia. Leon’s impact on the court is so massive that his decision will have ripple effects throughout the entire world of club volleyball.
Interviews with Leon over the past few weeks have suggested that he while he is interested in staying in Kazan, he would be open to moving to another team if the circumstances were right. In particular, Italian SuperLega leading club Sir Saftey Conad Perugia has been involved in talks to replace Ivan Zaytzev with the Cuban outside.
Volleyball.it, a leading volleyball news site in Italy, was informed that Leon has decided to remain in Kazan for the next two seasons as reported in this article. When we reached out for a comment, author Luca Muzzioli remarked that his source was a Russian journalist and that he was confident in the information. Neither Wilfredo Leon, his agent, or the team has made any comment on the validity of the article or any final decision regarding his contract for next season.
Staying in Kazan makes sense for Leon for a few reasons. It has been home his entire pro career, and while Russia may be the farthest place in the world from Cuba, spend four years in any place and it becomes comfortable. And if championships and accolades are important for Leon, there is no better place to play than Kazan. Since Leon has arrived, the club has won the domestic Russian league four times, the champion’s league three times, and the world club championships once. In those competitions, Leon picked up 6 best outside spiker awards and two MVPs.
If the rumour is true, this would spell the end of a wild period of speculation where fans of several teams dreamed of a day where the high-flying Cuban would lead their team to a championship. It would also mean that Zenit Kazan would also likely remain the top club team in the world for the next few years especially if American Matt Anderson remains as well.
Leon will be expensive, that is for sure. His contract is thought to be north of 1,000,000 euros per year, practically unheard of in men’s volleyball. And he will likely demand an even higher price now that he is a proven commodity. However, despite his cost, there seems to be no shortage of clubs willing to pay a premium for his services. Although there has been speculation that Leon’s camp is taking advantage of a certain Italian team’s interest in order to gain leverage in bargaining with Kazan. Regardless, Leon being taken off the market will undoubtedly clear the path for other signings to take place, much to the relief of players whose club is still uncertain for next season.