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The Curious Case of Anji Makhachkala

The Curious Case of Anji Makhachkala
Started on 19 November 2014 by Zed
Latest Reply on 24 November 2014 by HenryFM
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6 yearsEdited

One of Football’s most interesting Clubs: Anji Makhachkala

On the 17th of January of 2011, businessman Suleyman Kerimov, one of the richest people on earth, with an estimated net worth of 7.1 billion Dollars, bought his local football club – Anji Makhachkala. Later it turned out that the Dagestan president, Dagestan is the part of Russia where the city of Makhachkala is situated, gave Kerimov a 100% ownership of the club in return for financial assistance. Kerimov himself is a very controversial man - the billionaire got involved in several lawsuits involving his oil company, Nafta Moskva.

What does somebody like Suleyman Kerimov do with 5.5 billion Euros? I hear you ask, the answer is simple: he owns two Pagani Huayra’s, he had, and crashed, a Ferrari Enzo, he has a 90-metre-long yacht, and he occasionally gets artists like Shakira, Jessie J and Christina Aguilera to sing at his birthday parties. But, besides that, he also donates to charities and he has his own fund. The investment we’ll be talking about though, is the acquiring of Anji Makhachkala.

As I said before, he acquired a 100% stake in the club on the 17th of January. Kerimov promised to turn Anji into the Russian football hub, and his biggest wish was to redevelop the old and dilapidated Dinamo Arena, Anji’s 15.200-seater stadium. Kerimov wanted to turn it into a 40.000-seater which complied with all the UEFA regulations. Not only did he want to invest in the stadium, he also wanted to invest in everything around the club: the training pitches, the city of Makhachkala. All was part of a big plan to turn ”The Eagles”, the club’s nickname, into a modern football club, with a modern, football-orientated city around it.

Currently, Dagestan is exactly the opposite of Kerimov: Dagestan is a very poor area in Russia, and one of the only distractions people have is football. Also, there is a conflict in Dagestan which has been going on for years, for that reason, players and their families live a six-hour-flight away, in Moscow. The only time they go to Makhachkala is when they have to play a game.

In the first weeks of Kerimov’s reign, Anji also strengthened the squad substantially. Players like Roberto Carlos, Jucilei, Ohil Akhmedov and Diego Tardelli joined the club. As a reward for playing for Anji, Roberto Carlos received a Bugatti Veyron from Kerimov in April. This was all normal from the 17th of January onwards. Before that date, Anji was a club doing reasonably well, peaking in the 2000 season, when the club finished 4th. After a long spell in the second division (from 2003 to 2009), Anji returned to the Russian Premier League and managed to finish 11th in the last season before Kerimov.

Then, in the summer of 2011, even more quality players came to the club. In this window, Anji bought the biggest player ever to play for them: Samuel Eto’o joined for 27.5 million Euros. He earned around 425.000 Euros per week, making him the most expensive player ever. In the shadow of Eto’o, Hungarian winger Balázs Dzsudzsák, former Chelsea player Yuri Zhirkov and Standard Liège winger Mehdi Carcela-González all joined the club. In the winter transfer window of the 2011/2012 season, more players joined: Oleg Shatov, Christopher Samba and Georgiy Gabulov joined. The club finished 5th, meaning they qualified for the Europa League Qualifiers.

The summer of 2012 marked another host of signings for the Dagestan outfit. Tall striker Lacina Traoré joined from Kuban Krasnodar, Brazilian centre-back Ewerton joined from Corinthians and Lassana Diarra came over from Real Madrid. In the winter, Anji really started to turn into a team that could compete for the Russian championship. The reason? Willian joined from Shakhtar for a record fee of 35 million Euros. Eventually, they finished third, and qualified for the Europa League again. In the Europa League, Anji also reached quite far, getting knocked out by Newcastle in the Round of 16. This is Anji’s best performance ever, masterminded by Dutch manager Guus Hiddink.

At the start of the 2013/2014 season, there was a lot of optimism, as Kerimov had once again invested in new players: Russian starlet Aleksandr Kokorin and defensive midfielder Igor Denisov were both bought from Dinamo Moscow. Also, Christopher Samba joined again, after he had left for QPR the winter before. The team started the season with a great squad, but after only two games, just after all the big names had joined the club, Kerimov decided to drastically lower the club’s budget, resulting in the departure of manager Guus Hiddink, and half of the team: Willian, Eto’o, Kokorin, Denisov, Diarra, Samba, and the list goes on and on. The sales amounted to a total of 180 million Euros, and Anji were left with a recently revamped stadium, the 28.000-seater Anji Arena, a squad that couldn’t win for the first nineteen(!) games of the season, and a massive gap to close to avoid relegation. Newly installed manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev didn’t manage to pull it off, and Anji were relegated with 20 points from 30 matches – the worst last-placed team in the whole of Europe.

Now we’re in the summer of 2014, and the club will need to start all over, without the financial help of billionaire Suleyman Kerimov, who still owns the club but doesn’t want to invest a lot of money anymore. The reason he stopped investing in the club is because the potash market crashed, and he was almost arrested due to being in a conflict with Belarus. Anji will also have to start the search for a new manager, as Gadzhi Gadzhiev was fired at the end of the 2013/2014 season. I will definitely keep a close eye on the club, and see what happens to them as they try to become a stable football club again.

Written by Sergio Galeazzi – Our Russian Football Specialist in the Field.

Superb team choice!


Good luck :D
Great start! Good luck man, looking forward to this! :)
Awesome start Zed! Cheers!
Great start and good luck! Don't see many Russian League stories.

Anji announce New Manager

After Gadzhi Gadzhiev left Anji after the very disappointing 2013-2014 campaign, Alex Mirche has been installed as the new boss. Mirche is only 22, but due to injuries, he has had to stop his footballing career at the age of 20. Before he got injured, the player played in the youth team of Roda JC, after coming over from PSV’s youths. Mirche has Macedonian parents, but the family moved to the Netherlands in 1996, when Mirche was two years old. In Holland, he quickly fell in love with the beautiful game, and Mirche is a big fan of his local club PSV.

The reason Mirche has found himself managing a Russian second division team is because of Anji’s head of youth development – Jelle Goes. The Dutchman is a personal friend of Mirche, and the two know each other from their time together at PSV, when Goes was the head of youth there, and Mirche played in the under-15’s. Now, the two will link up again, as Goes will now be advising Mirche on which youth players to promote to the first team.

This seems like a weird move, as a 22-year-old doesn’t have any experience whatsoever, and he hasn’t got the authority that an older coach does have. On the coaches’ presentation conference, we asked director Magomed Isaev about the appointment: “I know that Mirche might not be the most experienced manager in the world, but he has really impressed us with his leadership skills, even at such a young age. Mirche was a fine player, and we at Anji think that he’ll be able to transfer that to the players.

“Besides, every manager has got to start somewhere, and as we’re a club in redevelopment, we also wanted a young manager, who still has a lot to learn. It fits into our long-term plans of rebuilding this club from the ground up. We won’t expect miracles from Mirche from the get-go, and he’ll get lots of time and space to sort things out. Our goal is to get back to the Russian Premier League within two seasons, something that should be doable for a team of this calibre and size.”

Obviously, we also went ahead and asked the man himself, Alex Mirche, some questions about his new function:

“You’re only twenty years old, but you’ve already decided to become a manager, why?”
“Last year, I got injured during a game with my former club Roda JC, and it turned out I had broken my spine. The doctors said that I’d be out for about a year, but after more research was done, my injury was to be the end of my footballing career, as it would be so vulnerable after it healed, that only one knock could mean another long-term injury to my back. I then made the very tough decision to stop my footballing career, and get into the managerial world.”

“How did you eventually end up at Anji Makhachkala?”
“After the end of last season, Gadzhi Gadzhiev decided to resign as Anji manager, and the club went on a search to find a new manager. A week before Gadzhiev was fired, I had completed my coaching course, and Jelle Goes, a close friend of mine, who supported me throughout my recovery, called me to congratulate me. He knew Anji were still searching for a manager, and managed to get me invited for a job interview by the board. They were impressed by my abilities, and eventually decided to hire me. I want to thank Jelle, because without him I wouldn’t have got this job!”

“After their club got relegated, the fans will be expecting an immediate return to the highest division, and they’re not sure you’re the right man to take the club forward. How will you cope with that?”
“I can really understand where they’re coming from, as I’m not the experienced manager they were hoping for. But, I can assure them that I’ll get this team promoted either this season or next season. They can expect good football and many goals with me, as I like attacking football. The fans won’t be disappointed, and I’m sure that, together with the fans’ support, this club can become one of the biggest in Russia!”

“What do you make out of your squad, will you be selling or buying anybody?”
“Sadly, I’ll have to sell a couple of foreign players, as currently we have five, but only three are allowed to be in the starting 11, due to league rules. Following these sales, I’ll try to sign Russian players to replace the ones who left. I won’t be letting go of any other players most likely, as I’m quite pleased with the squad as it is, and I don’t want to ruin the harmony that there is between the players already at the club. With the right tactics, I believe this squad is strong enough to win the league this season.”
What an update mate, fantastic! Great name as well :P
A very interesting choice of club. Good luck for the coming season.

Timur Kalizhanov joins Anji, Amadou gets moved to Anji-2

The Russian First Division has different rules than the Premier Division. One of the biggest rule changes is that players can only have three foreigners in their team at the same time, compared to the seven allowed in the Premier Division. This means Anji have had to drop their starting left-winger, Moutari Amadou, and their starting attacking midfielder, Oleksandr Aliev.

Moutari Amadou, twenty years old, is a very talented player from Niger who joined Anji last year, coming over from Ukrainian club Metalurg Donetsk. Before that, he played for Le Mans FC, in France, and Akokana, in his home country of Niger. Amadou has been capped by his national side five times, and one of his main characteristics is his ability to cooperate with his teammates very well.

The other player who has had to be dropped, is 29-year-old Oleksandr Aliev. The Ukrainian is renowned for his set pieces, free kicks and penalties most notably, and his longshots. Aliev is one of Anji’s most experienced players, having played 261 games in professional football, scoring 100 goals. Before joining Anji last year, Aliev was under contract at Dynamo Kyiv since 2002, apart from one season, when he was sold to Lokomotiv Moscow, but the season after joined Kyiv again. Also, Aliev was loaned out two times, first to Metalurg Zaporizhzha, and then to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. In his first season at Anji, he only played seven games.

Amadou’s replacement is Timur Kalizhanov. The 21-year-old’s contract at Neman Grodno didn’t get extended, and Anji picked him up for free. Before joining Grodno, Kalidzhanov played for Premier Division outfit Dinamo Moscow, but he didn’t make his debut in the first team. The Russian winger, who can play on both sides, certainly isn’t a top player, but he has the potential to become a good player for Anji. Kalidzhanov will be earning only 180 pounds per week, making him a cheap replacement for a Amadou.

One of the victims of the foreigner rule in the Russian First Division, Moutari Amadou.

Mirche was happy with his first signing for Anji, and said this to the Russian press: “I’m pleased we’ve managed to find such a cheap replacement for Amadou, because we’re a club with a small budget right now, and we can’t afford to spend big. Amadou will definitely join the first team once we’re back in the Premier Division, but in the meantime this is the best I can do, it’s not a great situation.” We also spoke to Amadou himself, and he understood the reason why he had to train with the second team. The former Le Mans FC player accepted his fate for the upcoming season, adding that if the club failed to get promoted, he would try to force a move away from the club.

New signing Kalizhanov was, obviously, also at the press conference and he was pleased with his new club: “I never expected a club as big as Anji to approach me, and when they offered me a contract, I was crying with joy. I thought I would be a back-up player, but found out that I’d be playing very regularly, so I am very excited for this adventure. I think that we’ve got a very strong squad, and that we can definitely challenge for promotion this season, hopefully I’ll be able to contribute a few goals and assists as well!”
Great update!

Anji present new logo and kits

Anji’s totally new logo - made by designer Tallery

Russian First Division outfit Anji Makhachkala have presented a new, totally revamped logo. Instead of the usual yellow being the main colour, the club have chosen to have the Dagestan flag as the main focal point. On their old logo, the flag was also included, but it wasn´t nearly as standing out as on the new logo. The characteristic yellow is also on the badge, albeit as a small circle around the Dagestan flag. Another feature that has returned is the eagle – Dagestan’s symbol. The last remarkable thing is that the writing isn’t in Russian, but in English. This is done purely for marketing reasons. The new Anji logo is a huge step forward from the old one, and it has given the club a modern and internationally marketable logo.

On the press conference held to unveil the new logo, club owner Suleyman Kerimov, manager Alex Mirche and director of football Magomed Isaev were all available for comment. “I think the logo is really nice, as it brings out all the details very well. I especially like the paintbrush effect on the flag,” Mirche said. Kerimov: “The logo is very nice, I think the designers did very well with such hard colours to combine. What I like most are the fonts, they’re really nice and they fit together quite well.” Isaev also offered his view: “Our new badge is one that can last a very long time, I think, it’s got a modern feel about it and the fonts are timeless. Also, the badge will be very marketable in other countries, as the writing is in English. This was a very important feature we wanted to add, because we want to establish ourselves in the whole of Europe, not only in Russia.”

Nike’s new Anji kits

Alongside with the new logo, the club’s 2014/2015 kits were also presented. Nike have made some very interesting kits, and they’re sure to become very popular. The home kit is, like always, yellow. However, something unique has been added: the Dagestan flag has been placed diagonally on the kit, and it has the letters Anzhi on it. The flag compliments the kit very well, and makes it stand out from all the other kits. The away kit is very simple, but still looks very good. It features white as the main colour and three shades of grey to add to the white, and even the logo has been made black-and-white. All in all the designers at Nike have done a stellar job, because both kits look very nice.

The fans were very positive about the new logo and kits, and most of them agreed that the new logo was a huge step forward from the old logo. They were very pleased that the eagle remained in, and that the Dagestan flag has such a prominent role. The fans said that they are looking forward to seeing how new, inexperienced manager Alex Mirche will do this year, and most of the fans were sure that he can take the team back to the Premier Division.
Nice logo mate. :)

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