A billionaire’s plans to bring peace to a troubled region through football have been bolstered by the arrival of one of the world’s most famous players.
In one of the most unexpected transfers in the history of football, 30-year-old Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o was officially unveiled last week as a player for Anzhi Makhachkala, and is now believed to be the best paid footballer in the world.
Anzhi, who play their home games in the violence-stricken republic of Dagestan in southern Russia, were bought by local oligarch Suleiman Kerimov in January. Since then, he has embarked on a spending spree of nearly £100m that has involved bringing several world-famous names to the club of which Eto’o is the biggest.
Eto’o was unveiled to the home fans in Makhachkala last weekend, with around 8,000 people packing into the team’s Dinamo Stadium to greet the player and watch a training session. As he came out onto the pitch, children dodged security guards and attempted to embrace the player, who looked somewhat embarrassed as the children were grabbed and escorted off by the truncheon-wielding guards.
Due to the security situation in Dagestan, where a local Islamic insurgency makes almost daily attacks on government officials and police, the 30-year-old Cameroon native will live in Moscow with the rest of the Anzhi team, and will make the two-hour flight to Dagestan for each match. Club director German Chistyakov said that eventually the team would move to Makhachkala permanently, but only after a new stadium and training facilities are built, which will take several years.
Anzhi reportedly paid Inter Milan £22m for Eto’o, and the player is believed to be earning about £18m per year, though Mr Chistyakov refused to confirm the salary. Concerns at the level of spending on Anzhi, given that the average salary in Dagestan is less than £300 per month, were dismissed by the Kremlin’s top official for the North Caucasus, Alexander Khloponin, in an interview last week. “People spend lots of money on football players in England too, why aren’t you complaining about that?” said Mr Khloponin. “Kerimov is also investing in youth football and sports training, and that is the most important thing.”
At a press conference in Makhachkala, Eto’o said that the money had played a part in his move to Anzhi, but he was more interested in the challenge of “taking the club from A to Z”. Rumours have also surfaced in recent days that the club are keen to employ the current England boss, Fabio Capello, as their new manager.Reuse content