Anzhi Makhachkala: it’s one way to earn a living

Oct 12, 2011
Bill Mann

More and more star names are being linked to ‘the Man City of Russian football’ – but what are they in for?

ROBIN VAN PERSIE, Nicolas Anelka (above), Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are just a few of the Premier League players rumoured to be on the shopping list of Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala.

Not a bad for a club that has already spent an alleged £100m this year in buying Roberto Carlos, Yuri Zhirkov, Balázs Dzsudzsák, Mbark Boussoufa and Samuel Eto'o, the latter in a deal that reportedly has him on a cool £18m a year, making him the richest player in the world game.

But who are Anzhi Makhachkala - and what’s it like to play for them?

There are, it seems, drawbacks to playing for Anzhi that the likes of Van Persie and Gerrard might want to consider before they make the move east to the Russian premier league.

Anzhi play their home games in the republic of Dagestan in southern Russia, an unstable region that sees regular attacks on government and police targets by Islamic extremists.

As a consequence Eto’o and his team-mates live and train in Moscow, 1,250 miles away, and take a two-hour flight to Dagestan on match day. Plans are in place to remedy that situation with a secure new stadium and training pitch to be constructed in the capital Makhachkala, but that’s expected to be several years down the line.

Then there’s the club’s owner, the man responsible for turning Anzhi into the Manchester City of Russian football. Oil tycoon Suleyman Kerimov, who bought the club in January, is worth an estimated $7.8 billion. Like another wealthy Russian football club owner, Kerimov isn’t slow in sacking those who fail to meet his high expectations.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is on his seventh coach in his eight years at the helm of Chelsea FC and Kerimov has already sacked his first, axing Gadzhi Gadzhiev at the end of September even though the 65-year-old was on target to meet Kerimov’s ambition of a top eight finish in the Premier League.

A message posted on Anzhi’s official website said simply: "The club expresses gratitude to the coach for the work done, and hopes that the experience and knowledge of [Gadzhiev] will yet serve to develop the club and football in Dagestan."

Ironically, in an interview shortly before his dismissal, Gadzhiev had outlined Anzhi’s ambitions. "In two years we should start aiming to win the league," he said. "However, things change in the blink of an eye nowadays. Maybe that will be our goal next season."

Former Brazilian wingback Roberto Carlos took over as player-coach, aided by assistant coach Andrei Gordeev, but with only four games left in the season Anzhi are unlikely to finish higher than fourth.

That might not be bad for a club that in its 20-year existence has only spent four seasons in the top flight of Russian football - but  it’s not good enough for Suleyman Kerimov, who had hoped to be playing in Europe next season.

So Roberto Carlos could be the second manager for the high jump and rumours are that England coach Fabio Capello is Kerimov’s favourite to replace him. For a while, at least.

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