Anzhi Makhachkala: What You Should Know About an Emerging Club in World Football
Nine years after their inception, Anzhi Makhachkala made their Russian Premier League debut. Founded in 1991, the club made a near rapid rise through the ranks of Russian football.
However, until 2011 when the club signed three time Champions League winner Samuel Eto’o, most football fans across the world knew very little—and most likely still do—about one of the richest clubs in world football.
Now the world is sitting up and taking notice of the Dagestan club, but perhaps it's not only for footballing reasons.
Recently the club made headlines when they declared Lionel Messi a transfer target.They obviously have lofty ideas to match their overflowing bank account.
Here are some facts that football fans should know about one of the richest clubs in world football.
Though his wealth has been recently reported at $7.8 billion, Suleyman Kerimov's (also spelled as Suleiman) wealth was estimated at $6.5 billion in January 2011.
That was when the wealthy investor took over Anzhi, and pledge to turn the club into a European power. Since then he has plunged money into the club, and gotten mixed rewards on the pitch.
Kerimov's original plan was to invest $200 million into the infrastructure of Anzhi. Much of that would go to building a modern stadium that would meet UEFA regulations.
Kerimov has been able to sign one marquee-name since taking over the club, and several lesser known names. Anzhi paid Inter Milan around $46 million (37 million euros) for Samuel Eto'o last summer, and made him the fourth highest paid player in the world
Currently listed as the 146th richest man in the world according to Forbes, Kerimov has the money to attract players from all over the globe. Unfortunately for the billionaire, money doesn't always equal success, and despite the money it maybe difficult to attract players to a warzone.
In September 2011, the BBC declared Dagestan the most dangerous place in Europe. For those that are unaware, Dagestan is the home of Anzhi and is in the south west of Russia. The region borders the Caspian Sea, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The reason for much of the danger in Dagestan comes from the fighting between Islamic insurgents and government security forces. Much of the country's 2.9 million people are Muslim, while Christians make up about nine percent of the population.
The fighting has taken place since 2000 and has claimed the lives of countless people on both sides.
While a guerilla war is being waged, it is easy to forget their is a professional football team in the region. Not too mention some famous, highly paid players.
Due to the security problems that have resulted in Dagestan, none of the team's players live in the region. The squad spends a limited amount of time in Makhachkala, and players train and live outside of Moscow.
They are only flown into the city for home matches, and by the end of the season the club will have travelled over 37,000 miles round trip from Moscow to Makhachkala for home games.
In August 2011, Anzhi got their big name player when Samuel Eto'o signed for the club from Inter Milan.
Eto'o will net around $26.6 million (20 million euros) a year over the next three seasons. That is if he lasts that long. Unlike other top players who have left big clubs for big money, Eto'o was still in the prime of his career, and Inter Milan has struggled since he left.
Eto'o was the first big name player to join the club still in his prime, and Anzhi has hopes of signing other big name players in the coming years.
Eto'o and Anzhi's success, or lack thereof, will influence others to join the Russian side over the next few seasons.
The Supporting Cast Part 1
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Prior to Eto'o's arrival at Anzhi, the club was home to former Brazil international Roberto Carlos. Though his name doesn't carry the same weight it once did when he played for Real Madrid, it was still a coup for the club to sign him.
The club lured Carlos from Brazilian club Corinthians for around $13 million in February 2011, and he was installed as captain shortly after. Last autumn the club made headlines when they sacked former manager Gadzhi Gadzhiyev. Soon after Carlos was appointed player-manager, and results improved.
Most recently the Brazilian was dropped by the club, however, he is still working behind the scenes. There are hopes he will join the club in a full coaching role after he obtains his coaching qualifications.
The Supporting Cast Part 2
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Last summer Anzhi went on a spending spree before the club shelled out for Eto'o. Their first big signing was Hungarian international Balazs Dzsudzsak from PSV Eindhoven.
Unfortunately, Dzsudzsak's time at Anzhi was cut short thanks to injury and limited playing opportunities. Russian Premier League rivals Dynamo Moscow bought the winger for $25 million in January.
However, the club still have plenty of names to back Eto'o. Last summer they signed former Chelsea player Yuri Zhirkov as well as Brazilian Jucilei during the previous transfer window. Most recently the club added former Blackburn defender Christopher Samba to their squad.
With financial might of Anzhi any player is a target, though spending money doesn't always equate to winning trophies. Real Madrid's Galacticos famously failed to win a major trophy during their time together as a full star-studded squad..
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In February of this year Anzhi announced the signing of manager Guus Hiddink. Hiddink—a mercenary of a manager—will be given plenty of resources in the summer to expand on his squad for next season. However, currently his main aim is to keep Anzhi in the top five of the Russian Premier League.
The club is already 14 points off the top spot in Russia, though they are still within reach of a European place. Hiddink's resume speaks for itself, and there is every possibility he can get them into Europe for only the second time in their history.
As always with Hiddink, he could leave at any time, and he will be linked with many of the big clubs in the summer. Chelsea has been rumoured to be interested in bringing the Dutchman back countless times already.
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There is no doubt the club's aspirations are to rival the likes of other big European clubs. With an unlimited budget it is a possibility, though the situation in Dagestan may compromise the club's plans.
However, flying in to play 15 home matches a season isn't too difficult for the rich players of the club. Because unlike the citizens of Dagestan, the players can come and go as they please.
For a more in depth look at Anzhi Makhachkala check out Will Tidey's article Anzhi Makhachkala: From War-Torn Russia Rises a New Breed of Super Club