Tycoon's U-turn leaves Anzhi floundering
A picture taken on January 16, 2012 shows Russian powerful oil and metals magnate, billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, watching a math in Dubai.
Whatever his motivation, the billionaire owner of Russian Premier League side Anzhi Makhachkala Suleiman Kerimov took the decision to abandon the club's strategy of seeking a rapid rise to glory and instead drastically squeezed its budget.
As a consequence, virtually an entire team who were meant to become world beaters were put on the market and sold within just days, ranging from Russia's national captain Igor Denisov to the sparkling Brazilian Willian.
With just two points from six games this season, the team from Dagestan in the Northern Caucasus have gone in less than a month from being title contenders to likely relegation candidates.
The remnants of the team have resorted to posting YouTube videos pleading with fans not to give up.
"Our problems are obvious," said Anzhi manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev. "But I just took over the team and it's too difficult for me to reveal the detailed way of solving these problems."
Anzhi started the season with by far the most star-studded line-up in the premier league and outstanding Dutch coach Guus Hiddink at the helm.
Apparently scenting that something was up, Hiddink quit the club in mysterious circumstances before the crisis broke and Anzhi stalwart Gadzhiev was brought in to take on the thankless task of damage limitation.
Almost an entire first team worth of players have already left or are on the verge of leaving the club.
As well as Willian, who is joining Chelsea, fellow Brazilian Joao Carlos, French midfielder Lassana Diarra and Morocco international Mbarak Boussoufa have already left the club.
Dinamo Moscow have already signed a trio of Russian internationals from Anzhi -- Denisov, former Chelsea attacking fullback Yury Zhirkov and striker Alexander Kokorin.
One of Gadzhiev's assistants Arsen Akayev said the club's Cameroon skipper Samuel Eto'o bade farewell to his teammates after Anzhi's match with FC Krasnodar at the weekend, the R-Sport news agency said.
Meanwhile, Congolese full back Christophe Samba, who rejoined Anzhi in summer from QPR, is expected to join Dynamo Moscow along with goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov and midfielder Alexei Ionov later this week.
Quite what lay behind Kerimov's decision remains a mystery.
Most observers have linked the turnaround to huge losses he sustained on the stock market when shares plunged in Russian potash producer Uralkali in which he has a stake of over 20 percent.
Even for a man with a net worth of $7.1 billion, the estimated $0.5 billion stock market losses may have been too much to stomach. Others have speculated he may have found the team's failure to achieve quick success too stressful.
Kerimov has reportedly told players that the task for Anzhi to become one of the Russian Premier League leaders and to win the Russian title within the next five years remains unchanged.
The team insists just the means has now changed - the goal will be achieved through organic development and youth academies rather than by signing star players.
Andrei Gordeyev, who has worked in Anzhi as a caretaker coach and Hiddink's assistant in 2011-13, said that serious changes in the club were inevitable.
He added that the changes would make the club stronger with the lapse of time.
"I'm confident that Anzhi will return to the leading positions in the Russian football," the Izvestia daily quoted Gordeyev as saying. "These changes aren't the disaster as optimisation process will bring the club no harm."
"The club have chosen the new course of development, which I consider to be absolutely right"
However, this season's Anzhi rookies and even the club's possible future purchases hardly give hope for a radical turnaround.
"We definitely need to boost our line-up with new players to strengthen the competition in the team," said Gadzhiev after the club lost 2-1 in Krasnodar on Saturday.
"But the new signings alone will not solve our problems. We desperately need to improve our defensive performance. But one thing I already know for sure -- our players can play much, much better."