The dramatic rise and drastic fall of Anzhi Makhachkala

The investment of Suleyman Kerimov promised to transform Anzhi Makhachkala into one of Russia’s top sides, but once the billionaire’s money disappeared the consequences have been dire.

A club only formed in 1991, Anzhi are in just their fifth-ever season in the top-tier of Russian football, but the club’s short history is tinged with controversy already.

The last 36 months have been a whirlwind ride for the Dagestan-based outfit, with their supporters experiencing the highs and lows over an eventful period.

The news of Kerimov’s purchase of the club came at the start of 2011, with the promise of extreme investment and a vast improvement of the side’s facilities.

True to his word, the Russian billionaire has bankrolled the purchase of an array of high-profile players since buying the club, with expenditure in the region of €240 million during the moneyman’s tenure.

Samuel Eto'oLegendary Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos was the first big name to head to the Anzhi Arena, who was followed by Yuri Zhirkov from Chelsea. Eyebrows were really raised when Samuel Eto’o opted to quit Inter for the Russian side, becoming the world’s highest-paid footballer in the process.

Other additions included Willian, Christopher Samba and Lassana Diarra, while reputable Dutch coach Guus Hiddink was appointed to steer the newly rich ship.

During Kerimov’s time at the club, Anzhi’s highest finish domestically has been third, while they have played in the Europa League for the last two seasons.

However, with the side’s upward trajectory suggesting a title bid this term, Kerimov pulled the plug on funds earlier this year. This resulted in the quick-fire sale of the bulk of the big-name signings that had been brought in at great expense before the start of this season. The club reclaimed around €150 million of the transfer fees shelled out over recent years.

Due to the departures of the guts of the first-team, Anzhi have slid into a drastic free-fall this season. After 19 Russian Premier League games, the Dagestan outfit sit bottom of the division, and are yet to win a match in the campaign. The Anzhi-Arena faithful have had to witness eight draws and 11 defeats, with the club currently 10 points from safety.

The Europa League has offered some respite from woeful domestic form, with the Russian side already qualifying from Group K as runners-up to Tottenham Hotspur ahead of their visit to White Hart Lane this Thursday.

Just how the next chapter of the Anzhi story reads is yet to be determined, but there may well be further sacrifices to the playing squad in the January transfer window. Ivory Coast duo Lacina Traoré and Abdul Razak are surely being eyed up by other clubs.

The story of Anzhi should serve as a perilous example of over-reliance on a wealthy owner or investor. The game is certainly becoming more and more commercialised, with an emphasis on finance, but just what happens when the money runs out or is withdrawn is being showcased with devastating effect in Dagestan.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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