After Smena, Slava was invited to Zenit’s farm team – Zenit-2, for which he played goalie for two years. Malafeev first played for Petersburg`s main team in 1999. First Slava was given the role of reserve goalie, but with time he was able to prove his right to be in the starting eleven. Slava became the team`s starting goalkeeper in 2001. At first Slava managed to combine duties in Zenit, Zenit-2 and the Zenit reserve team, as well as take part in the Intertoto Cup. Slava debuted in the Russian national team in 2003 (he played in the national youth team starting from 1999), and kept a clean sheet over the full ninety minutes of his first match in the Russian national team`s match with Wales.
Today Vyacheslav Malafeev is Zenit`s goalkeeper, started all three of Russia`s matches at Euro 2012, and is the Best Goalkeeper in Russia as per voting in various media publications, and a member of the Lev Yashin Club (for Russian goalkeepers who have had more than 100 shutouts in the Russian Premier League). Malafeev has been awarded the title “Honored Master of Sports of Russia”. Malafeev is the only blue-white-sky blue player who has been part of all the cups and titles won by Zenit in the post-Soviet period.
Vladimir Vilde, Malafeev`s first coach, had the following to say about Malafeev`s playing abilities: “He`s brave, cunning, and isn’t afraid to jump at people`s legs. Most importantly, he`s calm and reliable. That`s the way a goalie should be.” Dick Advocaat, the former coach of Zenit, said in one of his interviews that “Malafeev is the treasure of Zenit, and the team should be proud of him and take care of him.”