24 Aug 2011

World’s highest paid footballer joins Dagestan ‘Galacticos’

A football club in Dagestan owned by a Russian oligarch has made Samuel Eto’o the world’s highest paid player in a move that “typifies Russian football” an expert tells Channel 4 News.

Eto'o last year

Anzhi Makhachkala, a club in the capital of the wartorn north Caucasus region of Dagestan, will pay the Cameroonian striker £17.5 million a season after tax, which works out at nearly £1.5 million a month or 60 pence a second.

A transfer fee believed to be around £23.5 million was paid to Inter Milan by the club’s owner Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian oligarch with an estimated wealth of $7.8bn who says he aims to invest $100m in the team and its facilities.

The deal will see 30-year-old Eto’o overtake Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s highest paid player. Ronaldo earns an estimated £12 million a year at Real Madrid pre-tax.

Anzhi’s squad may soon look like a Russian version of the “Galacticos”, a term used to describe the superstar line-ups seen over the years at Real Madrid in Spain. The side already includes Brazilian superstar Roberto Carlos, who captains the side, and Yuri Zhirkov, who was bought from Chelsea.

The team is based in the province of Dagestan which is plagued by violence so the players live and train at a training camp near Moscow and fly around 1,250 miles to their home games.

Football journalist Jamie Sanderson told Channel 4 News “the amount of money he’ll be earning is amazing, but in many ways it typifies Russian football.”

“The league is a little imbalanced, because players can earn sometimes more than Premier League players, while those who don’t have the benefits of rich owners, are about on the level of France or Germany.

“This is not helped by limits on foreign players, which means in order for Russian clubs to sway top talent from more Western leagues, they have to pay top dollar.”

But Mr Sanderson said Eto’o’s move was concerned more with football than commercial interests.

“Roberto Carlos’ signing was very much about the commercial aspect, but they’ve since put more thought into their business, and signed quality over big names, in terms of Mbark Boussoufa, Balázs Dzsudzsák and Yuri Zhirkov. Eto’o is a happy mixture between both, as he’s a real star name, but crucially, still has the quality to deliver the club’s ambitions.”