Due to their name being almost unpronounceable, most football fans know FC Anzhi Makhachkalaas ‘that rich Russian team with the funny name.’ Even non-Russian signings tend to steer clear of using the full title of the club when being interviewed, opting instead for the less complex, yet equally acceptable, ‘Anzhi.’ Despite the technical issues of vocabulary they remain a team that many want to talk about.
Located in the capital of the Republic of Dagestan, the club was founded only 21 years ago. It wasn’t until 2011 that the adolescent Russian club truly leapt into the minds of a more far reaching audience. Presumably as a twentieth birthday present Anzhi Makhachkala was purchased by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov,his hometown club. Ever since Anzhi has attracted regular media attention due to their remarkably excessive transfer exploits.
The first high profile signing was World Cup Winner, and ‘banana kick’ expert, Roberto Carlos on a free transfer.
The Brazilian left back now serves as a director of football for the club. It was the purchase of Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o, from Inter Milan, for a sum of around €28 million that really made people stand up and take notice. It was a deal that would earn Eto’o an unbelievable €20.5 million a year.
The trend for spending has not stopped and the club can currently boast the likes of Yuri Zhirkov, Christopher Samba, Jucliei da Silva, Balazs Dzsudzsak, and Lassana Diarra. But even shrewder than their squad business was the appointment of Gus Hiddink as manger in February 2012. So is Anzhi’s commercial success being matched by on field football success?
In short, yes, it appears so. Since the clubs formation in 1991 they have won two Russian First Division titles, but never the Russian Premier League. In fact their highest ever finish is 4th, last season they finished 5th.
This season, as I write after 11 games, Anzhi Makhachkala sit top of the table by two points, having lost only once in the league. They also have the two top goal scorers in the division, with Samuel Eto’o and Lacina Traore on 7 and 5 respectively.
Fans will get to check even closer on Anzhi’s affluent progress when they take on Liverpool, at Anfield, in the Europa Cup on the 25th October.
image: © Jason Bagley