Willian: Anzhi Fire Sale Means He Could Revolutionise Liverpool...
When the highly-sought Brazilian playmaker Willian signed for Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala in January eyes were raised. But then the same eyes were no doubt raised when they also splashed out on the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Lassana Diarra and Yuri Zhirkov.
Now those four - along with other stellar names - could be on their way out. The club - backed by billionaire businessman Suleyman Kerimov - announced this week they will be slashing their budget and selling their top players. The so-called Anzhi Project is coming to an end.
Kerimov wants to reduce the club’s budget from £116 million to between £32m and £45m - not a bad figure for many clubs. However, the news may derail Anzhi’s European ambitions, as well as the hope of luring any more of the world’s top talent.
Oligarch Kerimov, who invested in the club two-and-a-half years ago, is apparently no longer happy to finance a gravy train. His original plan was for them to win the Russian title and challenge in Europe. Anzhi president Konstantin Remchukov suggested on Twitter that the club is planning a fire sale of players to trim costs.
"The main news is that Anzhi will undergo a reformatting," he tweeted. "Many of our expensive stars will leave Anzhi. We failed to clinch rapid success. Now Anzhi will develop its academy according to the medium-term plans of club development." Remchukov insisted, however, that Kerimov would remain the club’s chief financial backer, albeit on a much less grandiose scale.
Anzhi finished third in the Russian Premier League season, but suffered a disappointing start to their current campaign, taking just two points from their first four games. Just after appointing former Manchester United first team coach Rene Meulensteen as his assistant, manager Guus Hiddink resigned.
And, in what is slowly becoming a circus, his fellow Dutchman was sacked yesterday - a mere 16 days into the job. His likely replacement is Gadzhi Gadzhiev, a native of Dagestan, where Anzhi hail from.
But his one problem is the enigmatic Cameroonian and Anzhi captain - Eto’o, with reports suggesting he does not want to work with a coach who does not have a prestigious name, at least not in Europe.
Herein lies the crux of the matter - pandering to star names and terrified if they don’t adhere to their every whim. It has always been Chelsea fans’ worst nightmare: Roman Abramovich pulling his billions out of the club. No doubt, Paris Saint Germain, Monaco and Manchester City supporters have the same fears. But in an era of UEFA’s supposed Financial Fair Play, is it morally correct that a billionaire can back a club, spend millions on great players and then suddenly pull out?
In a move which is a little more refreshing, Anzhi look set to rely more on home-grown talent. Last year they opened a youth academy, the first in Dagestan, in order to develop youth talents to the first team. Europe’s top sides will now be sniffing around Moscow - where Anzhi’s players are based and train - in a bid to lure the club’s highest earners.
The first to go could be the exquisite playmaker Willian. Linked with Liverpool and Chelsea before his move to Anzhi, the Brazilian international is a sublime talent. His intelligence in wide areas, ability to edstroy his marker and penchant for spectacular goals would be a boon to the Anfield club. The Russian daily Izvestia daily claimed this week that Zhirkov and the Russian international captain Igor Denisov, who only joined Anzhi in the summer, have agreed to join Dinamo Moscow. Moroccan winger Mbark Bousouffa and Brazilian midfielder Jucilei should also follow through the exit.
Then there’s Eto’o. Now 32 and the world’s best-paid player on an estimated £16 million a season, he would have attracted the cream of the crop three years ago. But Eto’o has since lost a yard of pace, even though his goalscoring record remains prolific. A move to one of the oil-rich Gulf leagues is likely, in a possible incongruous beginning of the end to what has been a glittering career.