Uefa might be on the brink of imposing their new Financial Fair Play ruling, but Anzi, backed by the billions of Suleyman Kerimov, have made it quite clear that they have no intention of playing along to Michel Platini’s tune.
An investment of 300million euros to get the team into the Champions League on a consistent basis and perhaps conquering Russian football while, at the same time, bringing in a galaxy of stars from around the world might be a nice idea for Anzhi and their owner—yes I’m aware it sounds condescending. However, unfortunately for them, it’s not the reality we live in, and there are a whole host of reasons why Anzhi are nowhere near to becoming the superpower they hope to be in the near future.
Roberto Carlos might have been at the end of his career when Anzhi came knocking, happy to see out his remaining days in Brazil, but the Hollywood name of the former Real Madrid full back was an impressive coup for the Russian club. Even though Carlos was close to running on empty at the time, it brought the attention from the rest of Europe that is always necessary for any club hoping to make great waves in sport.
Capturing Samuel Eto’o’s signature may have made most think twice and begin to believe that this club hidden away in one of the far corners of European football might actually mean business. Well, not really. Throwing a boatload of money towards one of the Europe’s top players was bound to stick at some point. If they weren’t going to get the Messis or Ronaldos, then why not go a step down, and then another level lower until someone actually bites. Samuel Eto’o still had much to offer one of the top leagues in Europe, but, in much the same way Christopher Samba has committed to his immediate future, I just don’t see what Eto’o is gaining in Russia other than that Peyton Manning-style contract.
The fact is—and not in that infamous Rafa Benitez way—Anzhi haven’t got a prayer of attracting the best players of this generation. We saw similar promises of intent from Manchester City on the day they signed Robinho and tried to gatecrash Manchester United’s impending signing of Dimitar Berbatrov; Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Lionel Messi would all be wearing City shirts in the coming year they said. Credit to them, they’ve gone and spent very impressively, picking up a number of top stars from La Liga who were available. But even the recent reports of Ronaldo to City is met with nothing but a roll of the eyes. Seriously, how many people genuinely think something like that is on the horizon? Maybe that fan who prematurely tattooed Wayne Rooney onto his back.
But unlike City, Anzhi aren’t able to back up their confident words with arguably the best league in the world, competing for one of football‘s most recognizable trophies, and with realistic views of competing regularly in the Champions League.
On top of that, the Russian league is incredibly strict with regards to foreign players and their desire to fast track their youth development, meaning at any time during a match there has to be five homegrown players on the pitch, including a player under-21. An interesting idea perhaps, and maybe even something other leagues should look into, but how do you accommodate all the foreign players you hope to bring in as well as those already at the club? Players like Messi won’t stand for any of this rotation nonsense, as we’ve seen at Barcelona, and you then face the problem of upsetting others who arrived at the club earlier. Although sitting on £100,000 a week wouldn’t cause much of a stir from those who are aware of their great inferiority to Messi and Ronaldo.
It would be fantastic if the forces in English football were to combine their might and launch a synchronised attack on Barcelona in order to land Lionel Messi and bring him to the Premier League. What would that do for this league and how much attention and increased revenue would it generate. Yes I know, an absolutely ridiculous idea. Well if England can’t do it—the post profitable league in the world—then how do Russia plan on completing the task?
Like I said, it makes for nice reading and the promise of superstars is always bound to draw attention from fans and the media. But realistically, Anzhi are nowhere near to competing with the powers in European football at the moment.