Anzhi Makhachkala: Swoops for Kokorin and Denisov spell bigger ambitions for the Dagestani side
After causing so much trouble last autumn, the departure of Igor Denisov from three-time Russian champions Zenit Saint Petersburg has been something which has seemingly looked ever more likely, but just as the situation looked to have blown over, the Russian national team captain has shocked the whole of Russia by making the move to Dagestani club Anzhi Makhackala.
For a fee of around 12 million euros, the former Zenit icon has decided to switch the blue and white of Saint Petersburg for the yellow and green of Makhackala, and it isn’t just Denisov that has been lured by the ambitions of Anzhi.
New Russian hope Alexander Kokorin of Dynamo Moscow looks all but to be certain of making the switch to the south-west of Russia, and Anzhi’s rivals are just starting to get seriously worried before the start of the upcoming new season, as one club seems intent on ruling over Russia for a long time.
Having finished in third place, and gaining bronze medals for the first time in their history, Anzhi were left half-satisfied after last season, and only half-satisfied because it could have been even better.
Trailing eventual champions CSKA Moscow by just three points coming into the second half of last season’s championship and having a firm grip on second place, a desperate run of poor form, including a heartbreaking defeat in the Europa League allowed Zenit to overtake the Dagestani club and take a coveted Champions League place away from them.
In the Russian Cup, it was a similar story, taking CSKA all the way to penalties in the final, only to come up short when it really mattered. This season they seem determined to put that all right though. While able to tempt potential transfer targets with only Europa League football, Suleyman Kerimov’s deep pockets seem to be enticing enough.
Almost every player, which has any sort of calibre and quality about them seems to be linked with Anzhi, but the purchase of Zenit’s Denisov is something which came as somewhat as a shock. Since the fiasco in which Denisov froze himself out of the Zenit side following the arrival of Axel Witsel and in particular Hulk, the 29-year-old midfielder had managed to work his way back in Zenit’s good books and to all of us, everything seemed to be patching up nicely. But this move came as a real bombshell.
Zenit players Vyacheslav Malafeev and Alexander Kerzhakov themselves spoke of how they didn’t believe it was happening until it was officially confirmed, and with his departure, a big hole has been left in the heart of their midfield, a void which will be helped to be filled by the return of 34-year-old Ukrainian midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk from Champions League winners Bayern Munich.
For Anzhi though, it’s a major coup. Signing the Russian national team captain from a club like Zenit is just yet another statement of their intentions, as their craving for instant success becomes stronger and stronger.
Ex-Zenit bad man Alexey Ionov has also made Anzhi his new home, signing from last season’s surprise package Kuban Krasnodar, and with their main man Samuel Eto’o looking sure to stay for at least another season, they’re starting to look strong favourites for the new season which starts in just a week’s time.
And before they’re done in the transfer business for this summer, reports have emerged which seem to be indicating that Anzhi have snapped up Russia’s brightest hope for the future.