Anzhi Makachakala – The League?
Too big to fail? Nothing ever is.
Once upon a time, Anzhi Makachakala was at the tip of every football fan’s tongue.
Willian? Got him. Samuel Eto’o? Got him. Roberto Carlos? Got him. It had all the ingredients for a successful football club: the owner, Suleyman Kerimov, was a Russian businessman, and unlike other peers (see Chelsea), his choice of club was closer to home.
We all know how that unraveled. In a sudden development in early 2013, the Russian club slashed their budget and started selling their star players. Willian and Eto’o came to Chelsea. Roberto Carlos keeps on turning up here and there, even at the Delhi Dynamos. But the club simply ‘ghosted’ away from headlines. In last 2013, the side was second from bottom. As of December 2016, the club is at 11th, in a league of 16 sides. Among the reasons suggested, there was the lack of achievement and resultant impatience of the owner, as well as one of his biggest companies suffering a hit of close to $5 billion.
Zoom out. Pan to China.
The purchase of Oscar, and subsequent elevation to highest paid player in the world, has left people looking for answers. Oscar isn’t just another player; he was one of the best that Chelsea had, and was as good as Hazard, on his day. And he is 25. The real thing to notice here is that he is just one name on a long list which has departed for China. Of course, it is the money. But this time, there are multiple clubs ready to splurge, and they don’t look ready to stop. Are we seeing a re-enactment of Makachakala? And what are the guarantees that it isn’t?
We take a look at some of the clubs, who owns them, and who pays for them
Firstly, it is important to know that the Chinese president, Xi Jinping has himself given the push to make China a football powerhouse. There is a 10-year plan, deep pockets, and a recorded statement about his desire to see China win the World Cup within the next 15 years.
Greenland Group is one of the biggest players in real estate, and is counted among the 500 richest companies in the world. But wait. In 2014, its assets alone were worth 58 billion (Wikipedia). But, the majority stake in it is owned by the Chinese government. Can you imagine the Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation splashing out money on, say, Mumbai FC? (Of course not. Who will build the Shivaji statue then?). In 2013, it purchased Shanghai Shenhua (of Drogba-and-Anelka-in-same-club fame), now known as Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, and is hard at work at bringing in players. Currently, they own Demba Ba (ex-Chelsea) and Fredy Guarin (ex-Inter Milan).
Suning Commerce Group is a leading electronics retailer, with around 1,600 stores in China. And no, unlike here, these people are savvy enough to catch up with online sales; for one, they inked a deal with Alibaba recently. They own Jiangsu Suning FC. Which counts among its stars Ramires (ex-Chelsea) and Alex Teixeira (ex-Shakhtar Donetsk).
The Evergrande Group is said to be China’s largest real estate developer; its assets alone are said to be worth $116 billion (courtesy Forbes). It owns Guangzhou Evergrande, said to be the most valuable soccer team in China; rest of the 40% stake is owned by Alibaba. Its players include: Paulinho (ex-Tottenham) and Jackson Martinez (ex-Atletico Madrid).
The star of the moment, Shanghai International Port Group owns SIPG FC. SIPG is said to be worth more than $17 billion, and is also a publicly-traded company (which gives the company, as well as its finances, more transparency). As for owner, it is more or less owned by the Shanghai Muncipal Commission. Basically, it is a port, and it earns through the cargo shipped. In their defence, Hulk had already arrived here from Zenit St. Petersburg. Now Hulk meet Oscar. Hulk score goals. Hulk be better.
What do you think? Will the China Super League actually be a contender to the EPL? Or is this just another bubble?
For a complete list of all China based players and a report on the China importing spree, see here.
For finding how Anzhi Makachakala imploded, see here.