The reasons why Eto'o is joining Russian revolution

Cameroon star latest to be offered millions to play in Dagestan as local oligarch tries to transform region

Moscow

Anzhi Makhachkala are on the verge of adding to the £13m capture of former Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov with an even more unlikely signing – Samuel Eto'o of Internazionale and Cameroon. In the space of a few months, the club have quickly earned a reputation as the fastest-spending nouveaux riches on the planet.

In Russia everyone knows where Makhachkala is – almost every day there are new reports of shoot-outs and terrorist attacks by Islamic insurgents on police or on government officials. Elsewhere, the few people who have heard of the city know it as the capital of Dagestan, the unstable Russian region that borders Chechnya.

But Suleiman Kerimov, a locally-born oligarch and one of the richest men in Russia, is throwing hundreds of millions of pounds at Anzhi in a bid to make his region known for something different. Already the team has legendary Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos, a handful of other promising international acquisitions and Zhirkov. But Carlos, at 38, is very much in the twilight of his career, and Zhirkov was unable to get regular action when he was at Chelsea.

Signing Eto'o from Internazionale – for a reported £30m – would take the surreal nature of the Anzhi project to a new level. This, after all, is a player who scored 37 goals for Inter last season. In 2010, he won the Champions League with them, and the year before, he won it with Barcelona. For him to start playing his home games in a scruffy 16,000-seat stadium on the hot, violent shores of the Caspian Sea will be an extraordinary move.

I spent a couple of days with the team in their Makhachkala compound a fortnight ago, and Roberto Carlos told me that the region was completely safe, and that all violence was in the past. He was either lying or he has been lied to – that week there were several fatal attacks on government officials and a military operation that killed three terrorists.

The next week, the president's chief spokesman was assassinated on his way to work. Although Carlos claims the place is safe, the club trains in Moscow and flies into Makhachkala for just two days before home games.

Kerimov's plans include a new 40,000-seat stadium complex and the eventual relocation of the team to Dagestan full-time, but even now the club has to pay a premium to attract big names. "We know we have to pay people a little bit more to get them to come here than other clubs in Europe might," admitted Anzhi's PR director, Alexander Udaltsov, to me as I flew back with the team to Moscow after their game in Makhachkala.

If reports yesterday are to be believed, the premium is more than a "little bit". The club are allegedly ready to make the 30-year-old Cameroonian international the highest-paid footballer in the world, with a salary of around £340,000 a week.

For a bit of context, a schoolteacher in Dagestan has an average monthly salary of less than £50 per week. But the obscene amount of cash being thrown at the footballers has not provoked anger in Dagestan. In a region with a lot of problems, the football club has given people a rare opportunity to cheer. Home games are sold out, and huge posters of Roberto Carlos adorn the dusty city centre. The team is joint fourth in the Russian league, making a Champions League spot a real possibility.

Roberto Carlos himself denied that it was the giant pots of cash that drew him to Anzhi, and told me that he was excited to be "making history" by being at the club.

When asked about the £1m Bugatti Veyron that Kerimov, whom he describes as "a good friend", bought him as a birthday present earlier this year, he shrugged. "A Bugatti is basically the same as a bicycle; it's just a mode of transport," he said. "In Brazil, I had a helicopter."

Lowdown on Dagestan

Dagestan is known as "land of mountains" and the difficult terrain has limited travel and communications resulting in a diverse ethnic mix amongst the fast-growing population of three million. The republic benefits from the resources of the Caspian Sea and boasts more than 50 oilfields, but it is also beset by ethnic and religious tensions. Kidnappings, assassinations, violence and the use of firearms are commonplace and Islamist militias have been active in the area since 1999. However, none of that deterred recent signing Roberto Carlos from learning national dance Lezginka with a local dancer.

Harry Yeates

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London