A full month after the official UEFA deadline, the Russian transfer window closed on Wednesday night, with Willian's €35m move from FC Shakhtar Donetsk to ambitious FC Anji Makhachkala perhaps the biggest signing in Europe this winter.
Second in the table, UEFA Europa League contenders Anji already have a formidable attacking lineup – with Samuel Eto’o and Lacina Traoré scoring 16 Premier League goals between them in the autumn – but the Dagestan side's ambition knows no limits. Two points adrift of PFC CSKA Moskva and in sight of a first-ever Russian title, they made Brazilian Willian what is believed to be the third most expensive signing in Russian history, after FC Zenit St Petersburg's Hulk (€60m) and Axel Witsel (€40m).
"We do not buy ageing stars," said Anji coach Guus Hiddink, explaining his decision to gamble on the 24-year-old attacking midfielder. "We want to see young, talented players in the team. As for how much we spent on him, you should understand that if you go, for instance, to England, you will also see money, big salaries and everything connected with this, but football is still our priority."
CSKA have not speculated as much, and their one major recruit will have brought a sense of deja vu as Vágner Love returned to the club for a third spell – having spent 2012 back in Brazil with CR Flamengo. "I will not ask to be sent home any more," promised the 28-year-old forward, who first joined CSKA in 2004. "I will only leave when the president tells me: 'Vágner, it's enough.' As for now, I will do all I can to help CSKA win the title and qualify for the Champions league."
If CSKA and Anji's focus is on extra strike power, other clubs were eager to shore things up further back. FC Zenit St Petersburg brought in defenders Luís Neto and Milan Rodić, while centre-back Salvatore Bocchetti left FC Rubin Kazan for FC Spartak Moskva to become "part of a great club". Rubin responded by luring 22-year-old Yann M'Vila from Stade Rennais FC. "M'Vila is young and gifted – the best midfielder in the French league," said Rubin coach Kurban Berdyev. "His arrival will help us play differently and aim for serious goals, not only in Russia but also Europe."
There were no massive deals on deadline day: with defender Christopher Samba returning to England with Queens Park Rangers FC, Anji took Emir Spahić on loan from Sevilla FC. FC Rostov loaned Danko Lazović from Zenit, and Spartak secured a similar agreement with FC Dynamo Kyiv to borrow Croatia midfielder Ognjen Vukojević. With just 11 games to go, such short-term moves – with the option of a permanent transfer in the summer – make sense: try before you buy.
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