Anzhi Makhachkala: The crazy story of the Russian side who signed Eto'o, Willian & Carlos


Who remembers Anzhi Makhachkala?

We’re sure many of you have heard of the Russian side who sent shockwaves through Europe with their crazy spending between 2011-2013.

Back in January 2011, a Russian billionaire worth $9.8 billion, Suleyman Kerimov, purchased his hometown club.



And to say he was ambitious was an understatement.

Kerimov was hellbent on bringing some superstar names to Russia in an attempt to turn them into the biggest club in the country.

He made 16 major signings from 2011 and 2013 before things quickly turned sour.

The high point is that they managed to finish third in the Russian Premier League in the 2012/13 season. That saw them qualify for the Europa League, where they actually beat Liverpool.

In charge at that time was a certain Guus Hiddink.

But then, in the summer of 2013, Kerimov saw £5.5billion wiped off the value of a company he was investing in.

It saw things go from bad to worse for Anzhi.

Rene Meulensteen took over from Hiddink but was sacked after just 16 days in charge.

Guus Hiddink at Anzhi

Gadzhi Gadzhiev took over the club for a fourth time but they finished bottom in the 2013/14 season.

They did return at the first time of asked but were relegated once again last summer with just 2,250 fans in their 28,000 capacity stadium on the final day of the campaign.

Then, to compounds things, they failed Russian Football Union licensing for 2019/20 and, as a result, were relegated to the third tier of Russian football.

What a crazy couple of years.

Let’s take a look at who he convinced to join before things started to unravel rather quickly:

1. Roberto Carlos (Free)

The legendary Brazilian was 37 at the time having been released by Corinthians. He was probably ready to retire but Kerimov offered him €10million over two years to play defensive midfield. He was also bought a £1.2m Bugatti Veyron for his birthday. The definition of a lovely old job for Carlos.

2. Willian (£31.5m)

Willian played just 11 games for Anzhi despite being their record signing before joining Chelsea for a similar fee.

3. Samuel Eto’o (£24.3m)

Eto’o became the highest-paid player in the world when he joined Anzhi, picking up €20m-per-year after tax. He rewarded them with 26 goals in 73 matches. He also lived in Moscow, making the 1,200-mile flight to Makhachkala for matches because he feared for his safety.

“Plenty of people will be looking out for my security, and if I took this decision it’s because I don’t consider that my life or that of my family are in any danger,” Eto’o told his website upon his arrival.

“I’ll travel there on the day of the match or the eve of the match and then I’ll go back to Moscow. It’s that simple.”

4. Aleksandr Kokorin (£17.1m)

Kokorin didn’t play a single match for Anzhi due to the squad’s diminishing budget. He sold was to Dynamo Moscow and is now at Fiorentina.

Alexander Kokorin

5. Lacina Traore (£12.6m)

The lanky striker scored 18 goals in 46 matches for the club but, at the age of 31, is now without a club having last played for Bandırmaspor in the second tier of Turkish football.

6. Igor Denisov (£13.5m)

Denisov managed three matches before he was also sold to Dynamo Moscow.

7. Yuri Zhirkov (£13.5m)

Signed from Chelsea, Zhirkov played 63 times for the club before joining…you guessed it, Dynamo Moscow.

8. Balazs Dzsudzsak (£12.6m)

The Hungarian joined from PSV but played just eight times due to injuries. He signed for…Dynamo Moscow shortly afterwards.

Balazs Dzsudzsak

9. Chris Samba (£12.6m)

This perhaps sums up the Anzhi madness. They bought the defender from Blackburn in January 2012 but was sold back to QPR the following year.

10. Chris Samba (£10.44m)

But the club went back into him six months later with another considerable transfer fee. You’ll never guess who he joined after five appearances…

11. Jucilei (£9m)

Jucilei was actually quite loyal to Anzhi, sticking around for the disastrous 2013/14 season. In total, he played 99 times for them.

12. Moubarak Boussoufa (£7.2m)

Snapped up from Anderlecht, Boussoufa scored 13 goals and assisted a further 27 in his 87 appearances for Anzhi. Not a bad signing for £7.2 million.

Moubarak Boussoufa

13. Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez (£5.13m)

Signed from Standard Liege, Carcela-Gonzalez played 47 times for Anzhi – mostly during the 2012/13 season. He was sold back to Standard Liege, where he is now following spells at Benfica, Granada and Olympiacos.

14. Ewerton (£4.86m)

Ewerton didn’t leave the Russian club until 2015 when he joined Sporting. He played 35 times for Anzhi.

15. Lassana Diarra (£4.5m)

Anzhi signed the defensive midfielder from Real Madrid but he lasted just 18 league matches before moving to Russian Premier League rivals, Lokomotiv Moscow. He ended his career at Paris Saint-Germain.

16. Diego Tardelli (£4.5m)

The striker failed to score in 14 matches for Anzhi before a move to Qatar. At the age of 36, he’s still playing in his home country for Santos.

Diego Tardelli
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