Inter Milan forward Samuel Eto’o on Wednesday signed a three-year contract with Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkala for 20.5 million euros a season, the Russian football club announced on its official website.
Eto’o’s transfer fee was stated at 21 million euros.
The 30-year-old Cameroonian may make his debut for club Anzhi already on Saturday in Rostov-on-Don with his new jersey number, 99.
“The newcomer’s participation will soon be announced in the Russian Football Premier League under the number 99. Tomorrow (Thursday) the forward will arrive in Moscow and begin training for the match of the 22nd tour of the Premier League against Rostov,” Anzhi’s website said.
Former Barcelona star Eto’o signed the 60-million euro, three-year contract after passing a medical on Wednesday. The transfer represents the biggest coup in Russian football history.
With the move, Eto’o becomes the latest recruit in Anzhi’s rags-to-riches revolution led by billionaire owner Suleiman Kerimov.
A three-time Champions League winner with 469 career goals for Inter, Barcelona and Mallorca, Eto’o has a proven track record in the world’s toughest leagues and joins Anzhi still in his prime, a first for Russia’s improving but still obscure Premier League.
Eto’o is the brightest in a slew of stars Kerminov has brought to Anzhi since he acquired the club in January. He joins Roberto Carlos and former Chelsea midfielder Yuri Zhirkov as part of a spending spree usually associated with Europe’s more established elite.
Kerimov, a Dagestan-born senator who made his fortune in banking, energy and metals, has tasked coach Gadzhi Gadzhiev with Champions League qualification, and two-thirds of the way through the season Anzhi are on target, lying in fourth place, nine points off the lead of CSKA Moscow.
Some of Kerimov’s more astute if less stellar signings include Brazilians Diego Tardelli and Jucilei da Silva, Moroccan midfielder Moubarak Boussoufa and Hungarian winger Balazs Dzsudzsak, who have added tenacity and flair to a squad that also includes local talent. Russia coach Dick Advocaat said earlier this month he was considering calling central defensive pair Rasim Tagirbekov and Ali Gadzhibekov into the national team.
Despite the riches, Eto’o is unlikely to find any respite in Russia from the racist taunts that have reduced many games in his career to misery. He asked friends and family to refrain from attending his matches after suffering incessant abuse at Barcelona and also later at Inter.
Ominously, the worst incidents in Russian football this year have involved his new club: Roberto Carlos, who joined Anzhi in February on a 2 1/2 year deal, has been persistently harassed and had bananas hurled at him from the crowd during league matches. He abandoned the pitch in protest at the last incident in June.
Eto’o will have little exposure to the more pressing issues of poverty, corruption and Islamist extremism for which Dagestan, among the very poorest of Russia’s 83 provinces, is better known. The tribal and mountainous province relies on federal funds for 80 percent of its budget; it would take the average local a century to earn what Eto’o stands to make in a week.
Although Anzhi play their home games in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital, the team live and train near Moscow, a two-hour flight away. Italian media have reported that Eto’o will have use of Kerimov’s private jet to visit his family in Spain and Italy.