The Russian Premier league has been on the rise over the recent years, backed up by Russian oil money just like all professional sports leagues in Russia. If other leagues, such as Russian ice hockey league, KHL, tell anything, it’s that money will probably see their league become one of the bigger ones. Certainly it can already match up to smaller leagues such as Portuguese or Dutch league. Let’s take a look at the biggest clubs capable of attracting big players due to their financial assets…
1. FC Anzhi Makhachkala
Anzhi has not yet become one of the Russia’s most successful clubs, but they have managed to lure in some big-name players. Poaching aging Roberto Carlos was a decent achievement in itself, but the signing everyone knows Anzhi from is of course Samuel Eto’o. While the Cameroonian is past his prime as well, he is still an exciting attacker.
Anzhi plays around with the money of its billionaire owner Suleyman Kerimov and has since Samuel Eto’o signed among others Guus Hidding, Christopher Samba, Yuri Zhirkov and Lassana Diarra. Roberto Carlos has since his retirement become club’s sporting director.
Success for the rich club might be just around the corner, as they are currently 2nd in the Russian League.
2. FC Zenit Saint Petersburg
The most successful Russian club of the recent years, Zenit are not exactly poor themselves. Gazprom-money backed side installed Luciano Spalletti as their manager in 2009 and has since been a force of nature in the domestic league. They have won the last two championships, boast some great players such as Portugal international Bruno Alves, and made some big signings last summer.
The more publicized of these were shock move of Brazilian Hulk from Porto – he had been strongly linked to Chelsea so choosing Zenit instead stunned people, especially knowing the racist fans that Zenit has – that indeed is one thing that is limiting manager Dick Advocaat. He might have the funds to sign anyone he likes, but fans won’t approve just anyone.
Hulk and another big signing in talented Belgian Alex Witsel combined for a whopping total of 80 million euros and they weren’t even the only signings of the transfer window. The spending might be considered a bit of a failure though, as reigning champions have managed to drop to 3rd in current standings. Season is still young though, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Zenit top the table in the end of the season yet again.
Hulk, however has come to regret his decision after dismal half a season and getting racist abuse from the fans – along with being blamed for causing disharmony within the club.
3. Dynamo Moscow
A team boasting a lot of big-money signings but that has not really delivered lately. During the last few seasons Dynamo’s best achievement is fourth place and even on current campaign the team is only at 9th place.
Money certainly isn’t the issue. The club threw 19 million euros into signing Balázs Dzsudzsák from Anzhi and another eight million for Christian Noboa. Perhaps the most famous player of their current line-up is former Germany and Schalke striker Kevin Kuranyi, who is said to have cost the club 12 million euros.
Spending lavish fees on players certainly isn’t a problem, but success seems to have eluded the club. Unlike most of these clubs, Dynamo isn’t backed by a billionaire owner, but instead is owned by one of the biggest banks in Russia, VTB.
4. FC Spartak Moscow
Another billionaire-owned Russian club. Spartak has a lot of history behind it as well as it’s one of the most successful Russian clubs and boasts 12 Soviet championships.
Besides having some big players, club is planning to use its cash reserve to build its own, new stadium soon. Their best player is perhaps Brazilian Welliton, who has been Russian Premier League’s top scorer twice. Other notable players include Jose Manuel Jurado, Kim Källström and Ireland international Aiden McGeady, whose 9.5 million pound move to Spartak was highest ever fee received by a Scottish club.
For their decent squad and financial stability they aren’t doing too well in the league, being currently outside the euro spots.
5. CSKA Moscow
The league leaders of the current edition and 2005 UEFA Cup winners boast as well a considerable financial muscle. That said, their squad doesn’t boast as big star players as their richer counterparts. Japanese international star Keisuke Honda and Alan Dzagoev, who starred in last summer’s European championships are the biggest names of the current side, other noteworthy players being ex-Liverpool Mark Gonzalez and ex-Man United Zoran Tosic.
It’s maybe irony that the most financially boosted league in the world is actually led by a club currently that doesn’t have that much of money – CSKA is considerably rich but pales to comparison to their rivals.
There are many clubs that don’t make the list that still have decent amounts of money in the Russian league – as stated in the beginning, it’s a rich league, and it’s no wonder that they have risen up in UEFA rankings for leagues. It’s unlikely the league will match up to likes of Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga, but it might become the fifth biggest league in Europe. Certainly that’s where the money is and where financially aware player should go in Europe.