Patience is not infinite, and money is most certainly not. Both have a limited time span within which a desired outcome must be secured.
In the paradigm of football the above statement is incredibly pertinent in relation to the profligacy of super-rich owners bankrolling success. From PSG and Monaco to Man City, Chelsea and Anzhi Makhachkala, monetary dependency on their eye-wateringly rich benefactors is a reality faced with increasing frequency.
With the onset of the new Financial Fair Play rules to govern participation in football’s elite competition, extravagant spending has been somewhat tempered. Yet, the rule is not infallible and loopholes exist, as proved by Man City and Monaco each spending over £100 million this summer.
Broken down to its most basic level, this patronage is the archetypal path of the underdog striving to overcome the odds.
The clubs, to a certain degree, all fit a shared blueprint. The success has been enhanced as a result of its owners’ expenditure.
Before their takeover’s these clubs were competitors rather than champions. Admittedly clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG were already situated towards the upper echelons of their respective leagues, but their super-rich owners have elevated their success to a new level.
All have tasted success, nouveau-riche Monaco possibly excepted as their financial revolution has only come in the last couple of years. PSG won the French League this year for the first time since 1994. Manchester City’s 2011/12 title was their inaugural Premier League championship, and their first top division crown since 1968. Chelsea, since Roman Abramovich’s 2003 takeover, have won three league titles, numerous cups (four FA, two League) and their first ever Champions League crown.
It is true, money can and does buy success. All these clubs have been elevated into a position that, without their financial sponsorship, would have been unlikely.
Such dependency does leave the club in a situation where expectation is enhanced and managers and players are put under unfeasible pressure to succeed. The very definition of this came under Roman Abramovich’s notoriously trigger-happy regime as manager Roberto Di Matteo was fired just a few short months after delivering the club’s first Champions League.
The plight of Anzhi Makhachkala has put a unique slant on the role of a benefactor after its Russian billionaire owner’s patience simply ran out.
Ordering a more conservative spending approach and radical cutbacks, including transfer-listing the entire squad, owner Suleyman Kerimov called time on his unequivocal financial backing.
Anzhi’s squad, littered with a roster of delectable talent including £31 million man Willian, and Cameroon superstar Samuel Eto’o, had transformed the team from also-rans to contenders. After a strong third-place finish last year, much was expected this time around as £50 million was invested into the squad in the offseason.
Yet, after failing to register a win in their first four games of the season, Kerimov’s patience simply evaporated; Anzhi were ordered into a more modest approach.
A club statement via The Mirror spoke of “a new and long-term development strategy”, that would involve “considerable deformations in the team's life and in the current structure of our club on the whole.”
The move, according to chairman Konstantin Remchukov, will look to slash the Russian club's annual wage budget from £120 million to £50 million.
While the imminent Anzhi fire-sale will not unduly panic fans of the other super-rich clubs, it is most certainly a warning shot.
Suleyman Kerimov is simply the first benefactor to lose patience in his project. Without his financial support, an imminent halving of the budget has been ordered—such was the club’s dependency on his millions.
Manchester City, PSG and Chelsea are all bigger sides than Anzhi, with larger profiles, fanbases and more success. They are, therefore, more autonomous and not quite as reliant on their owners' billions. However, if Abramovich became disillusioned, Chelsea would no longer operate as they do and City would be forced to regress significantly without Sheikh Mansour’s lavish spending.
Anzhi Makhachkala therefore serve as a warning shot. Without success, patience and ultimately finance is not eternal; these men will only wait so long.
Money can do most things in football, but it cannot always buy success...Just ask Anzhi Makhachkala.