Confusion surrounds Vitaly Mutko’s return to the position of Russian Football Union (RFU) President with reports surfacing that Alexander Dyukov is likely to be appointed as his successor.
RFU vice-president Sergei Anokhin claimed in June that Mutko, who temporarily stepped down last December to fight his lifetime ban from the Olympic Games, will still continue in his role as RFU head, despite rumours that he was set to stand down after he told an RFU conference that delegates may not see him for "three or four months".
The 59-year-old, now a Deputy Prime Minister in Russia, is showing under the RFU website's management section as President of the national governing body, but Inside World Football reports that his comeback has effectively been ruled out with Dyukov, the President of Russian football club Zenit St Petersburg from 2008 to 2017, being the RFU Executive Committee’s preferred candidate.
The candidacy of Dyukov, chairman of the Management Board of oil producer Gazprom Neft, is claimed to have been agreed with Igor Levitin, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Last Wednesday (October 10), Russian public sports channel Match TV, citing an unnamed source in the RFU, revealed that Mutko will announce his return to the role the following day.
The news was later removed from the Match TV website with a spokesman for Mutko claiming he is currently busy with issues directly related to his official duties.
Mutko, a long-term ally of Putin from their shared past in Saint Petersburg city politics, has been heavily criticised both inside and outside of Russia for his performance as Sports Minister.
This has included him being removed from the FIFA Council and being given a lifetime ban by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from all Olympic events following allegations that Russia had operated a state-sponsored doping scheme.
He also stepped down from his role as head of the Organising Committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia in a bid to fight his IOC ban, and was replaced by Arkady Dvorkovich.
Mutko was the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for sport until May of this year, when his portfolio was changed to construction.
Neither the IOC nor the World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned investigations proved that Mutko was directly involved in the doping scandal - which included a sample tampering scheme at the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi - but as Sports Minister they accused him of overall responsibility.
Igor Vladimirov, the RFU’s press attaché, was reported as saying by Sport Express on Monday (October 15) that the duties of the RFU President are still being performed by Alexander Alaev, the general manager and general secretary.
"In the information space there are now a lot of different rumours about changes in the leadership of the Russian Football Union," he said.
"In fact, there is nothing new in this regard - we cannot say anything.
"On the website of the RFU, the organisation’s President is listed as Vitaliy Leontyevich Mutko because he did not leave this post, but only temporarily suspended his activities.
"Alexander Alexandrovich Alaev continues to perform the functions of the general manager/general secretary, and is also the acting President for the reason I voiced earlier.
"We do not comment on other rumours."
FIFA has warned it is continuing to monitor the situation surrounding the RFU Presidency.