FC Anji Makhachkala have undergone a dramatic transformation during a landmark summer for the Russian Premier League outfit.
Anji, hugely ambitious in the transfer market in recent seasons, last year made their debut in UEFA competition proper. Led by the venerable Guus Hiddink, they reached the UEFA Europa League round of 16. They would have been considered among the favourites for this term's edition too, had they not effected a rapid changeover in personnel this past month.
The Dagestan club's management announced on 7 August they would contemplate offers for the entire squad. A focus on the youth academy, opened in December 2012, and a more sustainable model is now the priority. It has been a tumultuous period, however, with Hiddink's successor René Meulensteen in charge for barely a fortnight before being replaced by the returning Gadzhi Gadzhiev.
An exodus of 14 players was initiated by Oleg Shatov, who joined FC Zenit, but headlined by the departures of Willian and Samuel Eto'o to Chelsea FC. Anji have received a reported €135m in sales. "From the moment I took over, we have sold 14 players but bought even more," Gadzhiev told UEFA.com. "In these circumstances, it is very hard to make a team in the short term. We don't have time and have a lot of changes to the lineup."
Indeed, just five players remain from the side assembled during Anji's days of upward mobility. These are defenders Ewerton and Andrei Eschenko, midfielders Jucilei and Odil Ahmedov, and striker Lacina Traoré. Several Russian youngsters have been recalled from loan spells, while there has also been an influx of new talent – all at low cost. It is almost impossible to predict what will come of Anji this season. "We don't have leaders in the team right now," said Gadzhiev. "We have played just one match in the league with the new squad, at FC Terek Grozny [1-1]."
Anji begin their UEFA Europa League Group K campaign at FC Sheriff on Thursday 19 September. They will also meet Tottenham Hotspur FC and Tromsø IL in their section. "
Our European aims are not yet clear," said 67-year-old Gadzhiev. "It depends on how fast the players can find a common language and also how well we judged their potential. Only closer to the end of the group stage will it become clear whether we are able to do justice to representing Russia – or if we have made mistakes."
Anji's 2013 summer transfer window
Vladimir Gabulov (FC Dinamo Moskva)
João Carlos (FC Spartak Moskva)
Christopher Samba (FC Dinamo Moskva)
Arseni Logashov (FC Lokomotiv Moskva)
Yuri Zhirkov (FC Dinamo Moskva)
Igor Denisov (FC Dinamo Moskva)
Mbark Boussoufa (FC Lokomotiv Moskva)
Lassana Diarra (FC Lokomotiv Moskva)
Oleg Shatov (FC Zenit)
Aleksei Ionov (FC Dinamo Moskva)
Willian (Chelsea FC)
Mehdi Carcela-González (R. Standard de Liège)
Aleksandr Kokorin (FC Dinamo Moskva)
Samuel Eto'o (Chelsea FC)
Mikhail Kerzhakov (FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod)
Evgeni Pomazan (Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast, back from loan)
Kamil Agalarov (FC Rostov)
Ayodele Adeleye (free transfer)
Alexandru Epureanu (FC Dinamo Moskva, loan)
Gia Grigalava (PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara)
Benoît Angbwa (PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara)
Vadim Demidov (free transfer)
Alan Gatagov (FC Dinamo Moskva, loan)
Pavel Solomatin (FC Dinamo Moskva, loan)
Vladimir Sobolev (FC Dinamo Moskva, loan)
Karlen Mkrtchyan (FC Metalurh Donetsk)
Ilya Maksimov (PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara)
Abdul Razak (Manchester City FC, loan)
Nikita Burmistrov (FC Amkar Perm, back from loan)
Serder Serderov (Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast, back from loan)
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