MOSCOW, August 7 (R-Sport/RIA Novosti) – Russian football club Anzhi Makhachkala, known for its big spending on top name players, said Wednesday that its budget, provided by Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, is being cut and its strategy radically overhauled.
Anzhi’s large budget, which has allowed it to attract international stars, will be reduced to about $50 to $70 million annually, Konstantin Remchukov, chairman of the club’s board of directors, said late Tuesday on Twitter. “A lot of expensive players will leave,” he added.
The club confirmed Wednesday that its spending power – which reportedly reached $180 million last season – would decrease, but said that it was “not talking about the mass sale of footballers,” according to a statement published on its website.
“After analyzing the club’s sporting results from last year, Anzhi’s leadership has taken the decision to develop a new long-term strategy,” the statement said.
Anzhi was given to Kerimov in 2011 by the Dagestan government in return for a pledge to bankroll the struggling club's sporting revival. Since then Anzhi has reportedly spent more on transfers than European footballing giants like Manchester United and Real Madrid.
There was confusion, however, not only about the consequences of the budget cuts, but why they were being implemented.
Anzhi said in its statement that the cuts were required by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). “Changes to the club’s budget parameters were called for by UEFA’s recent demands, and are linked with the necessity of observing the requirements of financial fair play,” the club said.
Financial fair play, which seeks to mitigate the advantage enjoyed by clubs with wealthy sponsors, was introduced by UEFA in 2011, in a bid to allow European clubs to compete on an equal footing.
But others contended that the decision was the result of Kerimov lessening his role in the day to day running of the club because he was suffering from health problems.
“The main reason behind Anzhi’s change of course is the sharp deterioration in the health of Kerimov against the background of worries about the misfortune of the club. The doctors said that negative emotions about football are incompatible with life. Literally,” Remchukov told Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta, of which he is chief editor.
Anzhi will focus on nurturing new talent, rather than importing international stars, said Remchukov, which will give Kerimov the opportunity to reduce his intensive involvement with the club.
A spokesman for Kerimov, however, denied that the billionaire was ill. “He has no health problems,” Prime news agency cited Kerimov’s spokesman as saying.
Alongside Anzhi, Kerimov controls large stakes in potash producer Uralkali, VTB bank, gold miner Polyus Gold and real estate developer PIK. The billionaire investor suffered a significant financial reverse last week when Uralkali’s stock plunged over 25 percent, wiping out over $500 million from the value of his 17.1 percent stake.
Based in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, Anzhi has not achieved the sporting success expected from one of the most profligate clubs in the Russian football league, and its head coaches have been replaced with rapidity this year. Anzhi began the 2013-14 season with two draws and two losses.
It was unclear which players would be sold in the club's drive to reduce costs. Russian media reported expensive hires including Igor Denisov, Alexander Kokorin, Yury Zhirkov and Vladimir Gabulov – all Russian internationals – could be shown the door.
German Tkachenko, a member of Anzhi's board, said that the team's "new philosophy" would not reduce its ability to be competitive, adding that a $50 million to $70 million budget is still more than the funds available to half the 16 teams in Russia’s top league.
"We're still sure that we can obtain strong results with this amount of money in the short term," he told R-Sport. "What's most important is that Kerimov stays with the club."
Re-cast throughout and updated with new details and allegations about Kerimov's health