Two weeks ago, it was one of the few scoreless draws in this season’s Europa League round of opening 24 games — a contest between Moldavian minnow Sheriff and Anzhi Makhachkala of Russia.
Anzhi Makhachkala were the heavy favorite and appeared the likeliest to score a goal throughout the opening hour, but they were unable to break down the plucky side from Tiraspol. Their inability to carve open the hosts weakened Anzhi, as Sheriff came the closest to recording a shock win at home. Such was the result for Anzhi that it continued a streak that is currently one of the worst in all of Europe, twelve matches without a single win to start their 2013-14 season in all competitions.
Anzhi Makhachkala’s place is rooted at the bottom of the Russian Premier League. Dead last place. Better than no one, not even ultra minnow Terk Grozny.
It is a set of fragility that would frustrate any club, no matter their stature. But for Anzhi of the Dagestan Republic captain Makhachkala, it is a run of form at the beginning of a season that the players, supporters, and owner should have expected. A run of form that is totally in the opposite direction of what the club aspired to be less than 32 months ago.
Russian billionaire investor Suleyman Kerimov wanted to make his modest hometown team not just as big as the Moscow giants of CSKA, Spartak, and Lokomotiv or Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, but to be as luminous as western Europe’s elite clubs. And with those high ambitions, Kerimov bought the club in January 2011, with it being later revealed that the President of Dagestan, Magomedsalam Magomedov, gave him 100% stake of the club.
“The football team is just a part of a bigger project,” said Anzhi chief executive German Chistyakov. “There will be new stadia, new infrastructure for the club, a new training ground, an academy for the kids. It will be a social lift for Dagestan. All these projects will change the lives of people in this region.”
At the forefont of changing people’s lives in Dagestan though would be a team stacked full of stars that would rival the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Manchester United. And Kerimov was determined to do that.
Almost a month taking over the club, Kermiov convinced the legendary Roberto Carlos to end his days with Anzhi instead of back home in the Brasileiro with Corinthians. The big checks from the billionaire continued with another Brazilian Juicei, followed by Anderlecht’s Moroccan playmaker Mbark Boussoufa. For a first transfer window as the owner, Kerimov made his intent be known, and surely displayed signs of more to come. And indeed, a blockbuster was afoot.