Anzhi, was it just a flea circus? [VIDEO]
Federico Farcomeni | 12/17/13 | 7:46 PM EST 0 Comments
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Once upon a time, dream and ambition led the way in the Republic of Dagestan. Players fled to the North Caucasus with no apparent reason (why would you have to commute to Moscow all the time after all?). Greatness and money attracted them there. But suddenly all the magic (and the players) disappeared. What happened to the once-powerful kingdom of Makhachkala?



This season the bar will again be a little higher. The club wants to settle permanently at the top” stated then manager Guus Hiddink just after Anzhi had splashed $71m in the space of a few days before the start of the new season in the Russian Premier League. According to Sport Express editor-in-chief Artur Petrosyan, in a few months, Anzhi had become the most hated team in the country due to their financial power and their original region.

But on July 22, after just two games into the current campaign, the Dutch manager resigned. At the time, some media thought that the six-match ban he received for shoving a referee could be one of the reasons. Hiddink himself was quoted saying "I've always said that my mission with Anzhi would end when the club was able to develop and grow by itself without my participation." In fact, the once European Champion, felt he had lost his leadership and control over the roster.

The truth is that striker Samuel Eto’o (later reunited with former boss José Mourinho at Chelsea) wanted to rule the roost. New acquisition Igor Denisov (who left after less than two months) arrived fresh from Zenit St Petersburg and could not stand the fact that the Cameroonian was “in charge” and other teammates would accept this without batting an eyelid. They had serious arguments, which nearly led to a massive fight. It was then that Kerimov decided to click on the “reset” button.

Nearly all Anzhi’s top Russian and foreign players left after Suleyman Kerimov (the 20th richest man in Russia with a $7.1 billion fortune according to Forbes), who had spent a total of $320m on players, announced that the club would now start to rely on young, home-grown talent. Rene Meulensteen (now manager at Fulham in England after refusing to lead Manchester United’s Under-21 side) sounded like the perfect fit, but he was sacked after 16 days apparently for letting the Denisov-Eto’o relationship fester. Gadzhi Gadzhiyev replaced him at the helm.

Meanwhile, billionaire Kerimov was facing a torrid time off the pitch. In the summer he lost more than $500m in the market and his health started to deteriorate. At the beginning of September, Belarusian authorities requested to Interpol a Red Notice for Kerimov, also the largest shareholder in Russian fertilizer giant Uralkali, which is embroiled in a legal dispute with Belarus. 

Kerimov slashed the annual payroll from $188m to $65m and then started to gradually cash in major assets, including the sales of his share in diamond producer Alrosa and of a 21.75% stake in Uralkali, which was purchased by billionaire-turned-politician Mikhail Prokhorov for a sum between $3 billion and $4.5 billion.

On the pitch, Anzhi sit bottom of the Russian Premier League with eight points and without a win in 19 games. But they are still on course in Europe where they will face Belgian side Genk in the Last 16 at the end of February. Despite their new Arena opened in March this year, Anzhi will still have to play their home match in Moscow (1,200 miles and a three-hour flight away) as Uefa does not allow international games to be played in the Republic of Dagestan.

If, as it seems, they will be relegated on May 17, Petrosyan expects them to bounce back immediately, and not for the sake of it. “Dagestan is the poorest and most criminal region in Russia – he explained – and it’s politically important to have a club there, which can draw people’s attention.” The region badly needs a team in the Premier League after all. The video below really doesn’t convey the idea of Islamic insurgency and lawless criminal gangs. Or does it?

 

In this Article: ANZHI | SAMUEL ETO’O | SOCCER

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