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Roman Zozulya on Rayo Vallecano future: 'I fear for my family'

Roman Zozulya of Real Betis Balompie during a La Liga match against Sporting Gijon.
Roman Zozulya joined Real Betis from Dnipro on a three-year contract in June 2016.

Roman Zozulya said he is pondering whether to play for Rayo Vallecano for the remainder of the season and is frightened for his family's safety and will make a decision by Monday.

The Ukrainian international striker was loaned to second-division side Rayo from La Liga side Real Betis hours before Tuesday's transfer deadline.

However, Zozulya returned to Seville on Wednesday "very affected" after being insulted at training on Wednesday by a group of radical Rayo fans that are opposed to the player's signing.

"I am not afraid for myself, but here I do fear for my family," Zozulya told AS. "This has been difficult. I wanted to help myself and help Rayo Vallecano and I am deeply saddened over what has happened. Yesterday [Thursday] I met with La Liga and the players' association and they offered me two options. The first is to play for Rayo Vallecano. They have offered me security, for me, for my family and my children. The second option is to return to Betis but with no chance to play -- just training."

The rumours regarding Zozulya's political affiliation dated back to last summer when a newspaper journalist misidentified a Ukrainian national emblem on a shirt that Zozulya was wearing upon his arrival to Betis from Dnipro as a neo-Nazi symbol.

Zozulya said he will decide by Monday but stressed that his family's safety is paramount.

"Everyone knows how the ultras are but afterward they didn't want to speak face to face with me when I asked them to," he said. "When I arrived, they accused me and they insulted me, and I asked them what did they want to know. I was available to answer to all of their accusations."

The 27-year-old has vehemently denied those rumours. Police had to be called to the scene on Wednesday.

"As the head of a family and a husband, he is worried, he is frightened for his family," Vladimir Kuzmenko, one of Zozulya's agents, told Cadena Ser radio. "Those [rumours] are completely unjust and not true.

"The Ukrainian ambassador and other personalities from his country have shown their backing for the player. We thank everyone for their support, including La Liga and the Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE). We will see what the player decides to do."

La Liga, AFE and the player's agents, Kuzmenko and Jose Lorenzo, met on Wednesday to discuss Zozulya's situation.

Zozulya must decide by Monday if he is to suit up for Rayo or be ineligible to play again this season. La Liga rules state that players cannot register for more than two teams in one campaign.

"Either he plays at Rayo or he doesn't play at all," AFE president Luis Rubiales told Cadena Ser.

"He cannot play for a third European club in a given season and he cannot go back to Betis because the transfer window is closed," he said. "He has been guaranteed that he will not have problems if he comes. Another matter is whether he wants to live like that."

La Liga issued a statement confirming that the player's safety is of paramount importance to everyone involved.

"In the [Thursday] meeting we have reached an agreement to guarantee the player protection not only to exercise his professional career but also for his personal life," it read.

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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