Club relegated after time in spotlight
3 June ~ When Dimitri Seluk, Yaya Touré's agent, recently attempted to emphasise how hard done by his client was for not receiving birthday greetings from his Manchester City colleagues, he used Anzhi Makhachkala as his frame of reference. "None of them shook his hand on his birthday. It's really sick," Seluk claimed. "He got a cake but when it was Roberto Carlos's birthday, the president of Anzhi gave him a Bugatti." Manchester City would be perfectly justified by responding to Seluk's claim by highlighting Anzhi's subsequent decline.
Their fourth consecutive season in the Russian Premier League ended in relegation. Suleyman Kerimov, Anzhi's billionaire backer, took charge in January 2011 and promptly bankrolled a lavish £116 million-per-annum budget, in an area where the average wage is around £156 a month. As well as the complimentary Bugattis, Samuel Eto'o, signed from Inter, was pocketing £350,000-a-week and his Moscow penthouse featured a three-meter-wide television. In fact, the whole of the expensively assembled squad lived and trained in Moscow, only making the 800-mile commute for matches.
Eighth in their first season, 2011-12, they qualifying for the Europa League by finishing third the next year under Guus Hiddink. But then £5.5 billion was wiped off the value of Kerimov's potash production company Uralkali in the summer. Having lost around £325m, he responded by slashing Anzhi's budget from £116m to between £32m and £45m. A remarkable fire sale ensued with seven players joining rivals Dynamo Moscow, three joining Lokomotiv Moscow plus Eto'o and Willian departed for Chelsea. René Meulensteen, Hiddink's assistant, was hired as his replacement and sacked after 16 days, with former coach Gadzhi Gadzhiyev brought back to the club.
This coincided with a disappointing start to 2013-14, losing two and drawing two of their first four games and a statement was subsequently issued to explain the considerable upheaval. "Having analysed the club's latest sports achievements following the results of the past period, Anzhi's administration has made a decision to work out the club's new and long-term development strategy," the statement claimed. They remained rooted to the foot of the table throughout the season, recording only three wins in 30 games, but replicated this feat in the Europa League before defeat at the hands of AZ in the round of 16.
After 18 months in the international spotlight Anzhi Makhachkala recouped £118m in player sales just before the transfer window closed, causing terminal damage to their immediate prospects. It was not a project that was built to last and with Financial Fair Play looming, Kerimov's sudden financial problems only accelerated the inevitable. It is safe to say that any future progress will need to be of a far more gradual nature. Scott Johnson