What happened to Anzhi Makhachkala’s money-hungry stars with club set to fold

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Not that long ago everyone in football was talking about Anzhi Makhachkala, despite the fact that no one could pronounce their name (I have it on good authority that it's 'Ma-hajj-kalar' by the way).

Back in 2011 they became the richest club on the planet after being bought by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov – who promised a spending spree that would make Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour look like penny-pinchers.

To begin with he was true to his word, and he even managed to coax a couple of bona fide footballing legends to Russia's dusty southern tip, but four years and £220 million later, the money simply stopped. Kerimov had firmly lost interest, and the devastating budget cuts he ordered saw Anzhi relegated in 2014.

In the eight seasons since, they've spent just £2.3 million on players, and news broke on Monday that the club is set to fold. As the footballing world mourns, here are eight top players Anzhi signed during their heyday and what became of them.

Roberto Carlos

The first major name through the door was Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning defender Roberto Carlos – who was handed a £1.5 million brand new Bugatti Veyron upon arrival.

The former Real Madrid man spent just one season in Russia, playing in midfield weirdly enough, before officially retiring from the game in 2012, but his short stint was invaluable as he raised Anzhi's profile overnight.

He briefly returned to football in 2015, featuring in three matches for Indian Super League side Delhi Dynamos while player-manager at the club.

If you were a top-level footballer, would you be happy to play in a rubbish league if it meant getting paid a lot more? Let us know in the comments section.

Samuel Eto'o

Perhaps the most high-profile and memorable of their signings, Samuel Eto'o shocked the world by agreeing a £24 million move to Anzhi just a year after winning the Champions League with Inter Milan.

The Cameroon international, who was still in his prime at 30, stayed for two-and-a-half years, bagging 36 goals in 76 games before leaving for Chelsea in 2013.

After just a year at Stamford Bridge he moved to Everton – where he was unforgivably handed the No.5 shirt (gross) – before jumping ship again to Serie A side Sampdoria. A three-year stint in Turkey followed, as did a six-month spell in Qatar before Eto'o finally hung his boots up in 2019.

Willian

After bursting onto the European scene with Shakhtar Donetsk, in a team which also featured Fernandinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Willian made the slightly depressing decision to join Anzhi in 2012 – despite the fact the some of the biggest clubs in Europe were courting him.

He lasted less than a year there though, netting just one goal in 17 games before following team-mate Eto'o to Chelsea – having famously passed a medical at Tottenham before the Blues swooped in.

The Brazilian spent seven seasons at Stamford Bridge winning seven major honours before an ill-advised switch to Arsenal in 2020 – where he rekindled his terrible Anzhi form. One goal in 37 appearances says it all and Willian quit the club for Corinthians a year later where he remains to this day.

Lassana Diarra

At one point Lassana Diarra was the heir-apparent to Claude Makelele, but after failing to nail down starting spots at Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid he joined the Anzhi revolution in 2012.

A year after he signed, major cost-cutting measures were sanctioned and Diarra was sold to Lokomotiv Moscow. Underwhelming stints at boyhood club Marseille and Al Jazira followed before PSG bizarrely nabbed him on a free transfer in 2018.

He played 19 times for the French giants, mostly from the sub's bench, before terminating his contract by mutual agreement in 2019, and officially hung up his boots shortly after.

Yuri Zhirkov

Another man who played for both Anzhi and Chelsea, Yuri Zhirkov joined the Degastani outfit in 2011 after failing to unseat Ashley Cole as the Blues' starting left-back.

He spent two years at the club, becoming arguably their most important player who actually wanted to be there, but was sold to Dynamo Moscow when the budget cuts began.

In 2016 he moved to Zenit St Petersburg, winning the Russian Premier League three times, before joining Khimki in January this year. The 38-year-old is still going strong there and has even earned over 100 caps for his country.

Chris Samba

Following five years at Blackburn Rovers Chris Samba has developed into one of the Premier League's most capable centre backs outside the 'big boys'. He was heavily linked to Arsenal in 2012, but opted to join Anzhi instead – signing a £100,000-a-week deal. He made an impressive start to life in Russia, but pushed for a return to English football 12 months later.

Samba joined QPR, though he couldn't save them from relegation to the Championship, and he moved backto Anzhi six months later, but after making just five more appearances for the club he was sold to Dynamo Moscow once the budget cuts began.

He later moved to Panathinaikos before returning to England again with Aston Villa in 2017. When his contract ended 18 months later, the defender officially retired and in 2021 he re-joined Blackburn as an academy coach.

Lacina Traore

When Aznhi signed Lacina Traore from rivals Kuban Krasnodar in 2012 it was seen as a bit of a coup.

The gigantic Ivorian striker briefly formed a formidable 'big man – little man' partnership with Eto'o and netted an impressive 18 goals in his first season, before leaving for Everton on loan in 2013 – though the move was as a match made in hell, with manager Roberto Martinez using Traore in just one Premier League match.

'The Big Tree', as he's appropriately known, was bought by Monaco the following summer, but has spent the last six seasons at seven clubs, and currently turns out for Portuguese second division side Varzim S.C.

Guus Hiddink

OK look he didn't exactly play for Anzhi but Guus Hiddink was in some ways their most high-profile arrival, so he's on the list! The former Netherlands, Real Madrid and Chelsea boss landed his first permanent position in six years after joining the Russian club in 2012.

He took them to within inches of the Europa League quarter-finals and guided to the club to a third-place finish in the Russian Premier League – the highest in their history – but just two weeks into the following season he quit unexpectedly, insisting that his "job was done".

A few months later he was appointed Netherlands manager again, before re-joining Chelsea as interim for the second time in 2015 following Jose Mourinho's dismissal. Short stints with China's U21 team and the Curacao national team followed before the Dutchman called it a day in September 2021.

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