Friday, October 14, 2011
F.C Anzhi Makhachkala – Russia’s new Football revolution
The city of Makhachkala is the capital of the Republic of Dagestan, a province in Russia recognized for its troubles and wanting to separate away from Russia. At the heart of this dangerous environment, a Football club was born in 1991 (yes, it’s younger than most of us). Anzhi Makhachkala is quickly becoming a name that people are familiar with because of their rapid growth in the game. Not the fanciest name in the world, nor the fanciest region, but it’s gotten the Football world talking. They’ve become Russia’s version of Manchester City thanks to their billionaire owner Suleiman Kerimov (one of the top 120 billionaires in the world) purchasing the club in January 2011. Why exactly Kerimov invested in such a small club when he has enough cash to splash at pretty much any other club in the world is simply a “matter of pride” as he put it, since he’s from Dagestan.
Following his takeover, the first real signing of a recognized name was made, when they purchased veteran Brazilian Roberto Carlos (now 38 years old, in case you were wondering), who has since become their captain and “player-coach”. The signing was just a small indication of where the club was intending on heading. Fast forward to August 2011 (the middle of the Russian Football season) and Anzhi had signed Balasz Dzsudzak from PSV, a young Hungarian midfielder wanted by many of Europe’s top clubs and who had won pretty much every individual award in Holland in 2009 and 2010; they’d signed Yuri Zhurkov, the Russian international from Chelsea; and last but not least, the biggest statement of “intent” made by the club, they signed Cameroonian superstar Samuel Eto’o from Inter Milan, for a reported fee of €28million. One of the world’s best players would now be earning no less than €20.5 million per year (that’s approximately €400,000 a week to play in Russia).
Kerimov’s riches are being splashed like a kid at a toy store. So much so, that Anzhi’s superstars don’t even live anywhere near Makhachlaka because of how dangerous the area is considered to be. The players all live and train in Moscow and have to travel to Makhachlaka (a 3h40 minute flight) to play the games before returning back to Moscow. But all this is done for the greater goal of Kerimov’s project to make the club “as big as Barcelona and Real Madrid”.
It’s a tough task to get such a small team to that level, but considering the money available to do it, it could happen. The Russian season still only has 4 games to go, so the plan to get the team into the Champions League will probably be delayed for another season, at least, as the club currently lies in 8th position in the league. The January transfer window will be interesting because I expect this small team to go and sign another superstar in the mould of Eto'o. They'll need to strenghten considerably if they are to overcome the other powerhouses of Russian Football, Zenit St Petersburg and the Moscow trio (CSKA, Dinamo and Spartak).
They’ve been linked with numerous top players around the world, and you’ve got to feel that if they were able to capture a player of Eto’o’s calibre, who knows who could be next. Robin Van Persie, Ashley Cole, Andriy Arshavin, and even Cristiano Ronaldo have all been mentioned, and the way things are going in Football at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another major superstar follow the trend of going for the money ahead of the glory. Samuel Eto’o, a player who has won everything in club Football, says “we players all do it for the money, anyone who says otherwise is a hypocrite”, and I think we’d be foolish to believe otherwise.