The story of Samuel Eto'o's Anzhi adventure - Is Arsenal or Chelsea his next stop?

Connor Jipps explores former Inter Milan and Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o's time in Russia, which appears ready to come to an end.

Back in 2011 when Samuel Eto'o completed his transfer from Inter Milan to the then relatively unknown Anzhi Makhachkala, the footballing world was left surprised but intrigued to the seemingly sudden emergence of a new footballing financial powerhouse and their pulling power to snap up one of the worlds best strikers.

Initially handed a contract worth the equivalent of £350,000 per week, Eto'o was officially tagged the most well paid footballer in world football, eclipsing the wages even of global stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

To hit you with some larger figures that's £1.5 million a month, £18 million per year, alongside a £23.7 million transfer fee.

At these financial levels of figures a significant return on investment would be expected and demanded by fans and boardroom figures alike. Yet despite Eto'o's infamous wage structure, the Cameroon striker has slipped under the radar beyond his first three months with barely a word spoken of his time in Russia - a stark contrast from the fanfare that surrounded the move in the first place.

Anzhi Makhachkala are like no other club in European football. Their ground is situated in Dagestan, a city with such a high crime rate that the majority of the clubs players live 12,000 miles away, mostly in Moscow, which is also the city in which the club trains for safety reasons.

On 'home' match days players take the reasonably long flight to Dagestan and travel through to their stadium under heavy security.

It's hardly the ideal preparation for a team that holds lofty ambitions to win the Russian Premier League, essentially negating any home advantage that Anzhi could exploit, and sure enough the performances of the side on the pitch have largely failed to match the heavy investment.

In the 2011/12 season, following the arrival of Eto'o, the club finished the domestic season in fifth place, but expectations remained fair for a team in huge transition. The compromise on this was an expectation of success the following season. Unfortunately for Anzhi fans, their wish was not to be granted.

Last season they finished 11 points behind triumphant CSKA Moscow, a third placed finish a sign of improvement but not in line with expenditure.

However if fans and players were disappointed with last season, the opening to this season will have delivered sleepless nights. In the opening four domestic games of the season the Dagestan-based cub are still without a win having secured just two points leaving them languishing towards the bottom of the table. Sure it's only early days but an encouraging start is always welcome and perhaps vital in a title push.

The club's failures have floated through the expensively assembled squad. For most strikers, a goalscoring rate of one goal in every two games is an worthy and pleasing return, but for a player of Eto'o's quality, it just does not cut it.

24 goals in 48 games is a modest return in a league which despite littering a few big names here and there, is fairly weak in comparison to it's European counterparts.

It is a far cry from the form Eto'o displayed in his time at the Nou Camp and San Siro - the former particularly - where his devastating play alongside Messi, Ronaldinho and co. made him arguably the best striker in world football at the time.

Now a shadow of that player, Eto'o's pace has diminished as age has creeped up on him; his 32 years beginning to show. Despite Anzhi not quite possessing the quality of the afore-mentioned Messi and Ronaldinho for service, the likes of former Shakthar man Willian and Lacina Traore are both high quality players that Eto'o should be thriving playing alongside; though they too have struggled to grab the league by the scruff of the neck and shake it up.

The highlights of his spell at the club have largely taken place during last years Europa League adventure where Eto'o appeared to thrive against more competitive clubs in climates more suited to a man who spent a large chunk of his time in the warm heat of sunny Spain, a complete contrast to the plundering temperatures of central Russia.

If you haven't seen it already, a quick youtube search of his goal against AZ Alkmaar will have you gasping for breathe - a impressive reminder of what Eto'o is still capable of.

Off the pitch Eto'o has appeared seemingly settled in Russia, although his hefty pay packet will no doubt have eased any troubles faced. Though managerial disputes with former managers Gadzhi Gadzhiev and Yury Krasnozhan over Anzhi's style of play and training methods have been played out in the Russian media, the striker has not once openly expressed a desire to move on to pastures new, unlike many who have made the jump to Russia.

It really is hard to make a judgement on which side of the coin the move falls on, a relative success in the global exposure the club has received off the back of the signing, and a significant improvement in the clubs league position evident but at a total cost to date of just over £55 million with wages factored in, the return on investment is questionable as to whether it really has been worth it as he enters his third season at the club.

From the recent comments of the club president, Remchukov and owner Suleiman Kerimov, it would appear not. Remchukov just a few days ago confirmed on his Twitter account that "many of our expensive stars will leave Anzhi, while the club's budget will be decreased to $50-$70 million a year."

It is a complete change of policy from the club, aware of the extravagant cost they have previously outlaid and the dent caused on the clubs finances. Baring in mind that this '$50-70 million budget will include wages and it is almost certain that Eto'o will now look to be shipped on, setting European clubs Napoli and Chelsea on high alert.

The likely re-appointment of Gadzhiev as manager will only further fuel rumours of an exit for the striker, and it certainly appears that now is the time for Eto'o to return to the normality of one of Europe's to five leagues; reports have linked him with Chelsea, Arsenal, Napoli, and former club Inter Milan. You suspect there will be several more to show an interest.

Sure, his wages may still prove a stumbling back in transfer negotiations, but if Eto'o can secure a move to one of Europe's giants once again for his final swan song, he may be able to put his solid but ultimately forgettable Anzhi experience behind him and faze out his career in the blaze of glory that his talent would justify and deserve.

 © ennaimi

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