Tycoon’s U-turn leaves Anzhi floundering

Source:AFP-Global Times Published: 2013-8-30 5:03:02

Anzhi's Samuel Eto'o (in yellow) vies with Zenit's Konstantin Zyryanov during the fifth round of the Russian Premier League on August 17. Photo: IC

Anzhi's Samuel Eto'o (in yellow) vies with Zenit's Konstantin Zyryanov during the fifth round of the Russian Premier League on August 17. Photo: IC

Suleiman Kerimov Photo: CFP

Suleiman Kerimov Photo: CFP

Perhaps it was losses on the stock exchange. Maybe it was a bout of ill health. Possibly a string of poor results proved too much.

Whatever his motivation,­  Suleiman Kerimov, the billionaire­ owner of Russian­ Premier League side Anzhi­ Makhachkala, took the decision to abandon the club's strategy­ of seeking a rapid rise to glory and instead drastically squeezed its budget.

As a consequence, virtually­ an entire team who were meant to become world beaters­ were put on the market and sold within just days, ranging from Russia's national captain Igor Denisov to the sparkling Brazilian Willian.

Poor start

With just two points from six games this season, the team from Dagestan in the Northern Caucasus have gone in less than a month from being title contenders to likely relegation candidates.

The remnants of the team have resorted to posting YouTube videos pleading with fans not to give up.

"Our problems are obvious," said Anzhi manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev. "But I just took over the team and it's too difficult for me to reveal the detailed way of solving these problems."

Anzhi started the season with by far the most star-studded lineup in the premier­ league and outstanding Dutch coach Guus Hiddink­ at the helm.

Apparently sensing something­ was up, Hiddink quit the club in mysterious circumstances before the crisis broke and Anzhi stalwart Gadzhiev was brought in to take on the thankless task of damage limitation.

Almost an entire first team worth of players have already left or are on the verge of leaving­ the club.

As well as Willian, who is joining Chelsea, Brazilian­ Joao Carlos, French Lassana­ Diarra and Morocco interna­tional Mbarak Boussoufa have already left the club.

Dinamo Moscow have already­ signed a trio of Russian­ internationals from Anzhi: Denisov, Yury Zhirkov, former Chelsea­ attacking­ fullback­, and striker ­Alexander Kokorin.

One of Gadzhiev's assistants­­ Arsen Akayev said the club's Cameroon skipper Samuel Eto'o bade farewell­ to his teammates­ after Anzhi's­ match with FC Krasnodar­ on August 24, the R-Sport news agency said.

Meanwhile, Congolese full back Christophe Samba, who rejoined Anzhi over the  summer from QPR, is expected to join Dynamo Moscow along with goalkeeper­ Vladimir Gabulov­ and midfielder­ Alexei Ionov.

Speculations arise

Quite what lay behind Kerimov's decision remains a mystery.

Most observers have linked the turnaround to huge losses he sustained on the stock market when shares plunged in Russian potash producer Uralkali in which he has a stake of over 20 percent.

Even for a man with a net worth of $7.1 billion, the estimated $0.5 billion stock market losses may have been too much to stomach.

Others have speculated he may have found the team's failure to achieve quick success­ too stressful.

Kerimov has reportedly­ told players that the task for Anzhi to become one of the Russian Premier League leaders­ and to win the Russian­ title within the next five years remains unchanged.­

The team insists just the means has now changed, the goal will be achieved through organic development and youth academies rather than by signing star players.

Andrei Gordeyev, who has worked in Anzhi as a caretaker coach and Hiddink's assistant in 2011-13, said that serious changes in the club were inevitable.

He added that the changes would make the club stronger with the lapse of time.

"I'm confident that Anzhi will return to the leading positions­ in the Russian football,­" the Izvestia daily quoted Gordeyev as saying.

"These changes aren't the disaster as optimization process will bring the club no harm."

"The club have chosen the new course of development,­ which I consider to be an absolutely­ right choice."

However, this season's Anzhi rookies and even the club's possible future purchases­ hardly give hope for a radical turnaround.

"We definitely need to boost our lineup with new players to strengthen the competition in the team," said Gadzhiev after the club lost 2-1 in Krasnodar.

"But the new signings alone will not solve our problems.­ We desperately need to improve our defensive­ performance. But one thing I already know for sure, our players can play much, much better."

AFP - Global Times

Posted in: Feature, Soccer

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