Anzhi fans must be wound up at seeing their star players depart from their club. They must also struggle to regard the new strategy from Suleyman Kerimov as refreshing. Their feeling is probably more one of resentment and nausea. Yet, the supporters should be proud of what their club has done.
Football, to many fans across the globe, is losing its magic. Money is to blame, and despite FIFA Financial Fair play – see this article for more on the seemingly doomed ruling – teams are spending more and more money. Agents run the game, stirring up rumours of departures, manipulating minds and demanding huge fees for their services. World leagues will now be dominated by teams with the most money. Even Champions League qualification, something that financial minnows could once scrape, is now only possible after a large amount of money has been spent.
Despite large spending being the only route to long success, Anzhi have decided that they have had enough of the stupid amounts of money in football. (Before people mention Barcelona, they still spend a lot of money on transfers and players despite having an excellent academy.) By having a revised annual budget of at most £70 million, they will not be able to keep the big names that announced the Dagestani club to the world.
Kerimov is disillusioned with his project. He has almost created a monster, from what originally was meant to be a beautiful thing. He always wanted to help the troubled Dagestan region, to promote youth. He wanted the club to belong to the people, not become a corporate business – like Arsenal or Paris Saint-Germain have become. He didn’t want rich egos stropping and running dressing rooms.
The money that Kerimov has invested into the academy is not unique for a rich owner. For example, Man City have been building a huge youth complex describing it as “at the heart of our long term strategy of building a successful and sustainable football club for the future”. No matter how cynically one takes these comments from Brian Marwood, there is one big difference: Anzhi will not spend large fees on players anymore, whereas City always will under Sheikh Mansour. Anzhi are totally reliant on this academy producing quality, if they stick to their new budget. Thankfully for Anzhi fans, the academy has a bright future, stocked with top professionals (Jelle Goes, former PSV academy director, is in charge), and will certainly help youngsters blossom into good professionals.
Kerimov showed how important the supporters were to him when he re-designed the old, creaking Khazar stadium. The stadium had been vacated for Dynamo Stadium, after the big winds from the Caspian Sea caused playing issues. He gave Anzhi fans Anzhi Arena, one of the best sporting venues in Eastern Europe. It was a stadium which met all UEFA Stadium Regulations, unlike Dynamo Stadium.
Anzhi’s ability in recruiting the best Dagestan youth players has also increased under Kerimov’s ownership. When Anzhi saved Dagdizel Kaspiysk, another Dagestan based club, they made them move their matches from Kaspiysk (population 101,000 (2010)) to Derbent (population 119,000 (2010)), and also become a feeder club. Having a feeder club has a number of benefits, such as enabling Anzhi to send players out on loan to the club or letting Anzhi have the first option to buy players. However, the biggest perk of the alliance is the new location which Anzhi demanded: Derbent is 80 miles south of Makhachkala, whereas Kaspiysk is 12 miles south. Thus, Anzhi will find it easier to attract talented youngsters from further south, and will have a much wider pool of talent to select and develop.
The reserve squad is improving constantly and Anzhi fans should not worry about the poor results so far. The results can be explained by the turmoil at the club. Disruption and want-away players will never result in wins. As the younger players get more playing time and experience, performances will inevitably improve. Anzhi’s target for this season will probably be to avoid relegation. As a result, the fans should not worry, they just need to lower their expectations and be patient.
So, Anzhi have the factors in place to function as they aim; as a self-sustainable club. The factors also make it possible for Kerimov to fulfill his original vision of a club which uses local players and values fans. Thank you Suleyman Kerimov, and thank you Anzhi Makhachkala, for a refreshing change in this money-dominated ‘beautiful’ game. All of the nostalgics and all of the people who can see what money is doing to football should be very grateful. They should be grateful that a rich owner, who cares about fans’ wellbeing and club community, has decided to put all his money into local youth. Go and prove the world that there is an alternative to money.
People aren’t born superstars, they need teaching and guidance. Anzhi can make people into superstars in years to come. One day, the Anzhi academy may be spoken about on the same terms as Barcelona’s La Masia. Readers may suggest that this is far too bold a claim for me to make. The thing is Anzhi need their academy to be good, so this claim is actually reasonable- especially when one considers the finanical clout Anzhi still can use if desperate. Yet, the best thing from all of this is that having an almost entirely Dagestani team will create passion, loyalty, a fighting spirit, and a love for the club. These are the things which have almost been lost from football. These are the things that money can never buy.
Sorry that this article is 2 days late. Thank you to everyone who voted on the poll. It was a 7-7 tie with “The ten worst signings of the transfer window”. If you would still like to see this article, drop a like on this article