Anzhi Makhachkala Makes A Splash

Daghestan appears set to make headlines in Russia for something other than the continuing terrorism and violence that have increasingly plagued the North Caucasus republic.

According to reports, Anzhi Makhachkala is close to finalizing the transfer of one of the top forwards in Europe, Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon. Eto’o has won the top European club competition, the Champions League, twice in the last three years, with Barcelona in 2009 and Inter Milan in 2010.

Anzhi is reportedly offering 35 million euros ($50 million) for the 30-year-old, with the offer of 20 million euros ($28 million) a year to sway him to move to Russia.

Already during the summer period during which clubs are allowed to buy and sell players, Anzhi brought in Russian national team player Yury Zhirkov from London’s Chelsea for 13.2 million pounds ($21.8 million).

Anzhi has also added veteran Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos, 38. Not bad for a club that was playing its seventh consecutive season in Russia’s next-highest league in 2009.

This flurry of high-profile acquisitions began after the club was taken over by billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, a native of Daghestan who represents the republic on the Federation Council in Moscow. On the most recent list of the world’s billionaires by “Forbes,” Kerimov was listed 118th, with a net worth of $7.8 billion.

Anzhi is not the only club in the North Caucasus attempting to challenge the traditional powers in Moscow (and now St. Petersburg). Terek Grozny, with the irrepressible backing of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, recently hired Dutch legend Ruud Gullit to coach the team, though he was fired in June after poor results.

While Eto’o flirted with a move to another upstart team to the east, Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor, in 2008, the fact that Anzhi Makhachkala could still qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the top two of the Russian Premier League (they’re currently sixth as of August 17) could sway him to look east this time around.

— Dan Wisniewski

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