In six matches (seven counting the Russia Cup), the main trouble maker, a spring-time transfer market sensation, has yet to win more than one. On top of that, it has been more than 40 days since that one victory against Volga. Now the Anzhi football club, with its sights set on the Champions League, is risking not even placing in the top eight, which continue on playing for spots in the European cups. What’s notable is that this streak of sub-par play took place after Yury Zhirkov and Samuel Eto’o joined the club.
Just to keep you up to speed, Anzhi lost to Rostov, Terek and Spartak from Nalchik, and were beaten by Kuban, Lokomotiv and Dynamo (during the Russia Cup). To put it in coach Karpin’s words, Anzhi hasn’t made any of their opponents “so much as break a sweat”. Meanwhile, Roberto Carlos and company have had everything dumped on their shoulders. It is, you’d have to agree, a pretty distressful looking situation. Everything seemed to be put together so well: Eto’o scored in two straight matches, and the celebrations continued for several weeks; the team’s management happily promised to bring in Raul and Daniel Alves. Emotions, however, won’t get you very far. The Cameroonian scorer, after having become exhausted from presentations and press conferences, and having made his first million euros, is taking it easy and just going through the motions. The Brazilians only from time to time rack up the goals. Zhirkov isn’t trying especially hard either, which has caused the local diaspora to fade into the background.
Gadzhi Gadzhiev, who was breaking down the doors of the referees’ room but couldn’t tell what to do with the stars that had been dumped on his head, was fired. Suleiman Kerimov couldn’t manage to lure over José Mourinho, Fabio Capello, Marcello Lippi, Guus Hiddink or even Avram Grant to Anzhi. So with time not on their side, Kerimov and his advisors appointed a player coach… Roberto Carlos. Later on, Gadzhiev’s aide, 36-year-old Andrei Gordeyev was sent to team up with Carlos and eventually become the acting coach. Gordeyev-Carlos Duo is obviously a laughable and temporary episode. Most importantly, just how long will Anzhi last like this? The club’s situation already is reminiscent of Dynamo’s sad Portuguese experience. In 2005, Dynamo, at the initiative of the mineral-fertilizer king Alexei Fedorichev, brought in an army of Portuguese players headed up by Derlei, Maniche and Coshtinha. Even so, Oleg Romantsev, Brazilian Ivo Wortmann nor Yuri Semin were able to mesh these players along with their Russian counterparts Semshov, Smertin and Ovchinnikov into a championship-calibre club. Moreover, in 2006 Andrei Kobelev was forced to save Dynamo from being knocked out of the first division…
Getting into the first league isn’t, of course, in Anzhi’s future; nonetheless, Kerimov doesn’t look to have a systematic approach to the project, just as Fedorichev didn’t. Apparently no one let the billionaire know that buying up stars doesn’t necessary guarantee first place. Just like no one explained to him that Joao Carlos, Jucilei, Tardelli, Boussoufa, Dzsudzsak, not to mention Roberto Carlos and Eto’o, should be drilled by an officer that matches up to them. Someone to steer the ship should have been selected from the market in the first place. Nothing has been lost now: Kerimov has an endless bucket of money. But the mess on the field at the moment (really what sense is there putting Roberto Carlos on the coach’s bench and just who is Gordeyev to Samuel Eto’o?) could prove to change the situation drastically.
… All of Dynamo’s troubles began after the Portuguese and other players, having fallen into a losing streak, beganshowing off their cleats to aborigine while having blown off football and the fans. None of the sport’s best coaches wanted to build a team out of a bunch of these mischievous old guys. At the same time, most of the Portuguese players finally understood just what country they had come to and began to make a bunch of ultimata with the single goal of getting back home; and they got what they wanted. Fedorichev had a falling out with the Dynamo administration, and after finding out that the territory around the team’s home field is not going to be his, he blew everything off and skipped town to Monaco, in the meantime leaving Dynamo with many years of debt.
Kerimov so far doesn’t look to be headed down the same road, but the possibility that Anzhi’s stars will, despite their contracts, want to get away for good from hooting hoodlums, flying bananas and policemen with tasers, is entirely realistic. A big-time coach capable of divvying up roles, putting together a star-studded offense and forcing his players to fight is what Anzhi needs as soon as possible. Otherwise, if any day now a big fights breaks out among the players, the international press will latch on to it mercilessly, thus rendering any of the Kerimov’s millions and presents to a potential coach useless and putting the nail in the coffin of his project.
…Experience shows that miracles can happen in football, and Cinderellas turn into princesses; however, such miracles don’t happen for those who, in hoping for one, put their optimism in heavy purse alone.