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Dirty Tackle

Billionaire who tried to turn Anzhi into a superclub suddenly realizes he’s made a huge mistake

Dirty Tackle

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In January 2011, Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov bought Anzhi Makhachkala, a club in his native Republic of Dagestan recently promoted to the Russian Premier. He showed his intent to turn the club into one of the biggest in Europe by quickly signing Roberto Carlos on a free transfer, announcing plans to build a new stadium and making Samuel Eto'o the highest paid footballer (and maybe the highest salaried athlete) in the world that summer with wages topping €20 million a year. Nevermind the fact that the team had to live and train in Moscow and travel 1,250 miles 15 times a year just for their home matches due to safety concerns, Kerimov had the desire and, more importantly, the money the make this work.

And now, in August 2013, just eight months after paying a club record transfer fee of €35 million to Shakhtar Donetsk for Brazilian winger Willian, he's drastically reducing his investment and preparing to sell off key players (or all players, depending on which reports you believe). They've also sacked new manager a former Manchester United assistant Rene Meulensteen after just 16 days on the job.

From Reuters:

Club chairman Konstantin Remchukov suggested on Twitter thatAnzhi planned a fire sale of players to trim costs and would bring back Gadzhi Gadzhiyev, the manager who left the club in September 2011.

That would spell the end of Rene Meulensteen's reign after just two matches in charge. The former first-team coach at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, he took over as manager from fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink on July 22.

"The main news is that there will be a reorganisation at Anzhi. Many expensive players will go, and the budget will be around $50-70 million dollars a year," Remchukov tweeted.

Russian website estimated Anzhi's budget in 2012 had been $180 million.

Remchukov went on to say, "The main reason for a change of course at Anzhi is the sharp deterioration in the health of Suleyman Kerimov because of worries about the club's lack of success." This might have been a joke, but Kerimov, who is Russia's 19th richest person with more than $7 billion to his name, might be feeling a little queasy about his finances in recent weeks. From RT:

[T]he decision to slash spending could be more closely connected with Kerimov’s finances, amid speculation that the billionaire may need to raise cash to cover stock market losses.

On July 30, the billionaire suffered a big loss on his investment in Russia’s Uralkali, the world’s largest producer of potash, after it unexpectedly scrapped its trade agreement with Belarusian Potash Company – breaking up a worldwide pricing constrium and throwing the salt fertilizer industry into turmoil.

Trading in Uralkali was suspended after its shares fell more than 20 percent in a day, leaving Kerimov with an estimated $375 million loss.

The attempt to create a super club in such an aggressively harsh environment was always going to be especially difficult, if not impossible. Kerimov wasn't doing this in a glitzy European city like Paris or London or Monaco or an already established footballing mecca like Manchester that would attract all kinds of media, players, fans and tourists. His club is in the Republic of Dagestan. And in exchange for his massive investment, he's only gotten a third-place finish in the Russian Premier League, a Russian Cup title (which the club also won in 2001) and a couple of failed Europa League campaigns. Anzhi are currently sitting third to last in the domestic league with no wins through four matches.

Anyway, if you've got tens of millions of euros lying around and you're looking to pick up a few hugely overpriced footballers, you now know who to call, Monaco. One man's mistakes are another man's...not yet mistakes.

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