Russian big spenders set to make a big impact on the European football scene.
Relatively unknown outside their native Russia, Anzhi Makhachkala have been attracting attention across Europe this summer with their audacious transfer plans. Here are five reasons to look out for Anzhi both this season and in the near future:
Purchased in January of this year by Russian Billionaire Sulyman Kerimov, Anzhi Makhachkala are making a real statement of intent in the Russian Premier League. Often referred to as the Russian Manchester City, Anzhi are not too dissimilar from the Premier League club in terms of their quick rise to genuine title contenders. Formed just 20 years ago (1991) Anzhi, have spent the vast majority of their time in Russia’s second tier, being promoted to the top flight, for the second time in their brief history, in 2009. Having secured their safety in the 2010 season, with an 11th placed finish, new owner Kerimov swooped to purchase the club with the aim of taking them to the summit world club football. Ranked at 118th on the Forbes’ list of World Billionaires, with a reported fortune of $7.8 billion, Kerimov made his fortune in the Mining industry, and undoubtedly has the financial clout to turn Anzhi into a real force.
The financial backing of the owner has allowed Anzhi to build a team that are a genuine force in the Russian Premier League. Top names such as ex-Chelsea star Yuri Zhirkov, Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos and Balazs Dzsudzsak, formerly the target of a host of top European clubs, have all been lured to the Dinamo Stadium. As well as these star names Anzhi have also built up a strong squad of South Americans (Diego Tardelli, Jucilei da Silva, Joao Carlos) and Eastern Block players (Odil Ahmedov, Aleksei Igonin, Shamil Lakhiyalov) putting themselves in a good position for a convincing league campaign and eventual Champions League qualification.
Despite the vast majority of their squad being new signings, Anzhi are not yet content with their transfer dealings, and have set their sights on some of world football’s top talents. One man they have recently been linked with is Inter Milan’s Cameroonian star striker Samuel Eto’o, who is rumoured to be on the verge of penning a contract with the Makhachkala based side, which will net him wages in the region of £300,000-per-week. As well as Eto’o, it is believed that Anzhi are also in the running to sign £40 million rated Brazilian teenage sensation Neymar from Santos, although they face stiff competition from Chelsea, Manchester City and particularly Real Madrid. Although these players have been rumoured to be close to a move to the Dikaya Diviziya (Wild Division) a more realistic mooted target would be Schalke’s Raul, who at 34 years old may not have a long-term future in the Bundesliga.
Growing Profile of Russian Football:
With the recent successes of Russian clubs such as Zenit St. Petersburg (2008 UEFA Cup winners), Rubin Kazan and CSKA Moscow on the European front, football in Russia has seen its reputation and quality come on leaps and bounds. From producing many successful teams during the USSR era (Particularly Spartak Moscow), football in Russia stagnated somewhat during the break-up of the Soviet Union, but now with new investors, a new league format and the influx of talented foreign players, the Russian game in clearly on the up. This rise in quality, allied with an improved football infrastructure has led to Russia being named as the host country for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where their campaign secured them the showpiece tournament ahead of England. Although football in Europe’s largest country is on the up, it is not without it’s problems, particularly with racism, where a number of ethnic minority players have found themselves the subject of taunting from the stands. One player who suffered at the hands of the spectators was now West Brom forward Peter Odemwingie, who found himself the target of abuse upon his move away from Lokomotiv Moscow. But with increased level of FIFA scrutiny ahead of the World Cup, the issue is set to be addressed.
With a squad of highly paid, talented star players and a wealthy owner, a strong manager is a necessity, and Anzhi may well have that man in the shape of 65-year-old coach Gadzhi Gadzhiev. The former Soviet Union and Russian assistant has a wealth of experience in the Russian game, enjoying spells as manager of teams such as Krylia Sovetov and FC Saturn Ramenskoye as well as spells with now amateur Makhachkala club Dinamo and time in the Japanese J. league with Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Despite his experience, instant success is likely to be expected, due to the investment from the chairman, so it remains to be seen just how much time Gadzhiev will get at the helm, before he finds himself under pressure.