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Russian benefactor teams have a mixed record


Billionaire tycoon and Dagestan native Suleiman Kerimov has been pumping money into Anzhi Makhachkala.  He spent €70m to acquire the club, €21m to purchase and renovate the current 29,000-seat stadium and €1bn has been set aside to maintain and develop the club over the next five years.

The team has achieved fourth place in the Russian premier league.  Every match is sold out with thousands of fans left waiting in the street.   The first batch of Samuel Eto'o team shirts have sold out.  300 supporters drove 20 hours to see Eto'o playing his first game for the club in Rostov.

However, benefactor teams have had a mixed record in Russia.  In the Soviet era, Ukraine's Zarya Lugansk was briefly turned into a Soviet champion under the direct orders of Ukranian-born Communist boss Leonid Brezhnev.   Dagestan itself was previously home to Dinamo Makhachkala, another would-be star team.

More recently in Chechnya, local strongman Razman Kadyrov has tried to boost Terek Grozny.  In the past nine months, the team has lost two coaches, Ruud Gullit from the Netherlands and Victor Munoz from Spain.   Big-name acquisitions have been no help in getting the team out of the bottom half of the premier league.

Back in Dagestan Mr Kerimov plans to build 'Anzhi City', which will border Makhachkaka on the Caspian Sea.   It will include a 45,000 capacity stadium, as well as training facilities and five-star hotels.

The politically well connected Mr Kerimov has assets in real estate and mining and investments in blue chip Russian stocks, in particular state owned groups such as Gazprom and Sberbank.   He recently acquired and merger Russia's two largest potash producers, a deal probably given a nod by the Kremlin to create a Russian fertilisers champion.   Nevertheless, up to now he has kept a low profile, although he represents Dagestan in the upper house of the Russian Parliament.