By Erkin Ibragimov
The frantic pace of Azerbaijani football shows no sign of slowing in the close season, with changes aplenty across the First Division.
Karvan replace coach
FK Karvan Evlakh reacted to their third-place finish by replacing coach Yunis Huseynov with Turkish tactician Fuat Yaman, while MTK Araz Imishli have also recruited a foreign trainer, Ukrainian Igor Nakonechnyy.
Several more clubs have backed Azeris to turn their fortunes around. Afghan Talybov has taken the helm at FK Genclerbirliyi Sumgayit, FK Geyazan Gazakh have appointed Mersed Yagubaliyev, and veteran Sabir Aliyev is the new boss of FK Shahdag Gusar.
Last year's runners-up FK Khazar Lenkoran have overhauled their playing staff, offloading five Turkish players, among them former international Oktay Derelioglu, and signing a glut of homegrown talent.
New arrivals include PFC Neftchi midfielder Emin Guliyev, Karvan trio Makhmud Gurbanov, Kamal Guliyev and Zaur Ramazanov, Vugar Nadyrov of FK Karabakh, and FK MOIK goalkeeper Mikail Yusifov. All are either Azeri internationals or in contention to play for the country.
Two-time Azeri champions FK Shamkir may not kick off the new campaign due to financial difficulties. The 2000 and 2001 title winners have no sponsor and could fold unless they can persuade former owner Shahbaz Suleymanov to return.
Clubs must now pay to register players and coaches under new rules passed by the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan. A local player will cost €1,230 and a foreigner €4,100 while the fee for a foreign coach is €8,200.
Some sides have criticised the ruling, while FK Karat Baku, Geyazan, Shahdag and newly-promoted FK Energetik have reportedly hinted they will not be able to afford the fees.
Sadygoy back in control
Finally, Azerbaijan have appointed a new head coach of the national team. Vagif Sadygov replaces the Brazilian Carlos Alberto Torres for his third spell in charge. Sadygov's contract runs for the rest of 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying with an option to extend it.
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