When it comes to discussing FC Anzhi Makhachkala's eye-catching signings, coach Gadzhi Gadzhiev clearly has a good understanding of what the rest of the world is thinking.
The arrivals of Roberto Carlos, Yuri Zhirkov, Samuel Eto'o, Balázs Dzsudzsák and Mbark Boussoufa in a €70m spree prompted suggestions that Anzhi were spending money indiscriminately. "We were reasonably concerned because there have been cases in football where money was invested in an ill-matched mix of players and it turned out that the club had thrown their money away," said Gadzhiev.
"Our board was aware of that and tried to minimise the risk," added the 65-year-old former Soviet Union assistant coach, whose third spell as boss of the north Caucacus side began in 2010. "
When we look for new signings we judge players not only on their football skills but also their personal qualities. We have not made a single mistake so far."
The team from the republic of Dagestan (which borders Azerbaijan to the south and Georgia to the west) have spent just four of their 20 seasons of existence in the top division in Russia, seemingly peaking in 2000 with a fourth-placed Premier-Liga finish and a trip to the Russian Cup final. However, their modest ambitions have risen vertiginously since Suleiman Kerimov became the club's main sponsor in January.
Gadzhiev said that Anzhi's initial plan of gradually renewing their playing resources had been somewhat overtaken. "We began the season better than expected, motivation increased and every home match was a sell-out," he explained. "That was a sign that it was the right time to bring in top-class players. That is when we got Yuri Zhirkov and Samuel Eto'o."
Anzhi arguably now boast the strongest squad in Russia, yet the Premier-Liga's fifth-ranked outfit are keeping their ambitions in check for the moment. "We set ourselves a target – to finish in the top eight," said Gadzhiev. "The board is not keen to adjust that. Anzhi are aiming for a UEFA Europa League berth, but we may change that goal in the winter."
Managing expectations may be the biggest battle Gadzhiev faces in the months ahead, but having seen what Manchester City FC have achieved in a short space of time in England, Anzhi can dare to dream. "In two years we should start aiming to win the league," the coach said. "However, things change in the blink of an eye nowadays. Maybe that will be our goal next season."
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