Billionaire Moving Moscow-Based Club Anzhi Makhachkala, Cutting Foreign Stars
Russian football club Anzhi Makhachkala, owned by billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, is moving from Moscow to Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala in the North Caucasus, where it technically belongs, as part of a scheme to dramatically cut costs. Ultimately, the move will transform the top-budget, all-star squad -- which includes the world's highest-paid player Samuel Eto'o -- to a regular Russian regional club. An Anzhi spokesperson told SBD Global, "Based on the results of the club over the recent period, the management of Anzhi made the decision to develop a new, long-term strategy for the development of the club." He added, "Changes to the club’s budget are caused by UEFA’s requirements and the need to observe the regime of financial fair play,” and the changes would not lead to "substantial deformations in the life of the team and the entire structure of the club created so far."
LEAVING THE CITY: The spokesperson did not comment on the club’s relocation to Makhachkala, which was reported by the Russian media. The specific figures of the "changes to the club’s budget" have not been announced but they are to lead to a dramatic cut in the funding of the squad. Kerimov, a native of Dagestan, has reportedly pumped $500M into the club since he acquired it in Jan. '11. According to reports, most of Anzhi’s highly paid foreign and local stars, including Cameroon’s striker Eto’o, whose annual salary reportedly is €23M ($30M), could leave the squad before the summer transfer window closes on Sept. 6. On Aug. 16, the sale of three top Russian players, Yuri Zhirkov, Alexander Kokorin and Igor Denisov, to Dinamo Moscow was announced. The arrangement for the club to be based in Moscow and players to be flown to Dagestan, where terrorist attacks are not uncommon, for home games, is part of the deal with Eto’o and Anzhi’s other foreign stars. Reports claim Anzhi is renting a €80,000- ($106,000)-a-month apartment for Eto’o in Moscow.
LEAGUE NOT WORRIED: Meanwhile, the Russian Premier League said the situation at Anzhi is unlikely to have a major impact on the league overall. A spokesman said, "The squad has not pulled out of the league, although we have seen examples of that on financial grounds. Apparently, some priorities changed for the club, but it is their business."
Vladimir Kozlov is a writer in Moscow.