Europe News

Oligarch Offers Record Breaking Wages to Soccer Star Eto’o

Roger Blitz and Courtney Weaver, Financial Times

An unheralded Russian club owned by billionaire oligarch Suleiman Kerimov is expected to make Samuel Eto’o the world’s highest paid footballer after announcing it had secured a deal to sign the Cameroon striker from Inter Milan.


Anzhi Makhachkala, located in the capital of the war-torn north Caucasus region of Dagestan, lured the Cameroonian with an annual salary reportedly to be 20 million euros ($29 million), which would easily surpass the money earned by the next two top earners, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of Barcelona.

The transfer fee is reportedly about 25 million euros and will help the Italian club shave losses, which were about 70 million euros last year.

After more than a week of negotiations, a statement on the Anzhi website said agreement had been reached between the two clubs. “The terms of the transfer fully suited both sides,” a statement said.

The player’s official first day of training is this Thursday and he will be available for the club’s first weekend game versus Rostov.

The acquisition represents a dramatic turn of events for Anzhi, which finished 11th in Russia’s 16-team premier league last season.

Mr Kerimov, a mysterious Russian oligarch with assets in the metals and fertiliser sectors and an estimated wealth of $7.8 billion, according to Russian Forbes, bought Anzhi in January and has proceeded to swell the ranks of the little-known team with international stars.

Anzhi’s squad includes Roberto Carlos, the ageing Brazilian fullback, and Yuri Zhirkov, who was bought from Chelsea. But, playing for Russia this month in his first match since being signed by Anzhi, the former Chelsea midfielder was booed by fans, which some teammates interpreted as resentment at the club’s new spending power.

Mr Kerimov told the Financial Times he had spent $100 million of his own money on the club and on the acquisition of players such as Eto’o and that a 1 billion euros investment programme was planned over the next five years to maintain and build better facilities in Makhachkala, including both a state-of-art ­stadium and five-star hotels.

The new signing is aged 30, an age that tends to be past a player’s peak. Eto’o was at Milan for only two seasons, having spent the previous five at Barcelona, where he won numerous honours, including two Champions League winner’s medals.

Although he had a disappointing World Cup for his country in South Africa in 2010, he helped the Italian club win the Champions League that year and last season scored 37 times for the club.

German Chistyakov, Anzhi’s chief executive, in an interview with the FT on Tuesday played down the threat of violence in Dagestan, saying the problems were exaggerated by the media.

Anzhi’s players currently only spend a fraction of their time at the team’s base in Makhachkala, living and training the rest of the time in a suburb outside Moscow with newer training facilities while they wait for their brand new facilities in Makachkala to be built.