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Playing for his dad and returning to Goodison - what happened to Diniyar Bilyaletdinov after Everton?

"Billy" scored seven goals in his first season at Goodison Park, including a big one as Everton beat league champions Manchester United

Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was one of a number of promising young gems picked up by Everton during David Moyes' time as manager, but the Russian midfielder didn't have the longevity of some of his colleagues.

Diniyar BilyaletdinovSigned in the summer of 2009, the man nicknamed "Billy" by fans scored seven goals in his first season, including Everton's first in an eye-catching 3-1 victory over Manchester United.

However, he faded after that first term, eventually leaving midway through a 2011/12 campaign which had seen him start just nine games.

So what has Bilyaletdinov been up to in the eight years since leaving Goodison Park?

Bilyletdinov was still involved with the Russia national team when he left Everton, and scored during qualification for Euro 2012, but wasn't involved in the tournament itself.

By this point, he was back at home with Spartak Moscow, but injuries limited his involvement for the remainder of the 2011/12 season.

He had a fruitful few months the following season under former Arsenal manager Unai Emery, playing in a Champions League group stage victory over Benfica and scoring three times in his first 10 games.

However, more injuries and the departure of the Spanish coach came at the wrong time.

"Emery was a great coach," Bilyaletdinov later told the Everton club website in 2019.

"He really wanted us to play in a Spanish style. It was good football, but we needed time to adapt."

Spartak had three more coaches before Bilyaletdinov left, but he spent a lot of the intervening time on loan with other Russian clubs.

This included a stint at a struggling Anzhi Makhachkala in 2014, the club having lost Willian to Chelsea a few months earlier.

Bilyaletdinov scored in back-to-back games as they battled against the drop under Gadzhi Gadzhiyev, but ultimately he was unable to keep them up.

His second loan spell took him to Torpedo Moscow, newly promoted to the Russian top flight, but they too suffered relegation.

Things didn't get a great deal better for Bilyaletdinov at his next club, Rubin Kazan.

He started with two goals in his first six games and involvement in the Europa League.

He sat out their European meetings with Liverpool that year, though, and barely featured after his father, Rinat, was relieved of his managerial duties just months after signing him.

A comeback at the end of the season lasted just 11 minutes as Bilyaletdinov was subbed on and then taken off, and he didn't play another minute after recovering from a muscle injury in November 2016, eventually leaving Russia for pastures new.

Bilyaletdinov's next move took him to Lithuania and a stint with FK Trakai in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Trakai finished third in that first campaign, giving Bilyalatdinov one final crack at Europa League football.

However, after victories over teams from Wales and Kazakhstan, the Lithuanian side were eliminated by Partizan in qualifying.

Bilyaletdinov had scored the decisive goal against Cefn Druids in the preliminary round and set up the winner against Irtysh, but the Partizan game was one too far.

At the end of the 2018 season, having helped Trakai into Europe once more, his time was up. Still, 13 goals in fewer than 40 games isn't too bad a return for a player moving to a new league for the first time.

When he spoke to the Everton programme, Bilyaletdinov shared his continued fondness for the club, and revealed he had sat with Blues fans when he returned to watch a Merseyside Derby.

"I went in with the Evertonians," he explained. "I wanted to feel the atmosphere, and it was fantastic. I was out taking pictures and the fans remembered me, which gave me a good feeling."

Now 35, Bilyaletdinov is still involved in football, with his sons potentially adding another generation to footballing folklore in Russia. Both are still young, but the pair have joined the CSKA Moscow academy and, according to their father, retain a fondness for the Merseyside club.

By Tom Victor

Liverpool Echo, May 28 2020

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