Monday, August 15, 2011

Analyzing Russian Football

Russia is first and foremost, a football nation whose future can’t be predicted at all. In 2008, Russia was on the up: Reaching the semi-finals in the European Championship in Austria/Switzerland and Zenit St. Petersburg surprisingly won the UEFA CUP, beating the likes of Bayern Munich on their road to the final. The UEFA also showed belief in this nation by staging the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow.

Since then, a lot of money has been invested but no real progress has been made so far. In the following, Russia’s three leading clubs are to be briefly analyzed.

Winner of UEFA CUP 2008, Russian Premjer League 2007,2010, Russian Cup 99, 2010

Zenit are arguably one of the best clubs in Russia right now. Their team has the highest market value, the highest budget and they are able to attract good players. Most recently, they signed Italian left-back Domenico Criscito for roughly £ 10m. In the years before that, they were not shy to splash the cash either; paying £19m for Porto’s Bruno Alves or £26,5m (Russian record) for Dynamo Moscow’s Danny.

Since 2004 – they have spent £170,4m but received just £59,8m; equalling a net spend of -£110,6m. A lot of money for a club that can’t rely on huge income e.g. Champions League.
Finans Magazine, set Zenit’s budget at £104m and their revenue (merchandising and matchday) at £38m.  You don’t have to be a professor of economics to see that their model is not very self sustainable. Therefore it seems quite obvious that Gazprom, who own 76% of the club, are pumping money into the club on a general basis.
It is safe to say that in the foreseeable future, Zenit will always be able to challenge for the Russian league/cup. But achieving something like the glory of 2008 seems far far away.

Currently, they are in 2nd place – 2 points behind CSKA.

Rubin Kazan:

Why do you know Rubin Kazan? Why do I know them? They haven’t won anything big in Europe and just won two domestic titles (2008, 2009).

We know them because they caused one of the bigger upsets in Champions Leauge over the last few years. 

They beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Camp Nou. And not just a B-C side. No. Messi, Ibrahimovic, Xavi, Iniesta or Pique all featured. This match took place in October 2009 and can be seen as Kazan’s peak.
Apart from that, I actually don’t know much about them. I know that they are playing Champions League quite regularly and that they caused a stir by signing Hoffenheim’s Carlos Eduardo for £17,6m. Looking at the squad list you don’t find many familiar names: maybe Obafemi Martins who played for Inter, Newcastle and briefly for Wolfsburg. Their latest signing was Nelson Valdes who used to play for Dortmund and Hercules. It doesn’t really matter that the names are quite unfamiliar to us. It is important that they work perfectly as a team.
Until last season they spent an average £8m a season and earned £1,7m. Last season however, maybe due to Champions League money, they spent £38,6m and got £14,2m. To be fair, roughly 45% of the 38,6m was just for Carlos Eduardo.

Since 2004, they spent £90,1m and earned £24,3 resulting in a total net spend of -£65,8m.

These numbers are particularly amazing when compared to the achievements and Zenit’s figures. Zenit have spent noticeably more money but failed to bring home more glory.

On a personal note, I believe Kazan’s policy is spot on. They participate in the Champions League and are in the top 4 of the Russian league. They should only be careful not to overpay on individuals like Carlos Eduardo; especially when they are not able to live up to the expectations.

CSKA Moscow:

The best side in Russian football right now. They are leading the Premjer League and assemble a great crop of players. This exciting team features players ranging from Russian stars like Akinfeev or Dzagoev to great international players like Tosic, Vagner Love, Honda or top goal-getter Seydou Doumbia.
Since 2002, CSKA have won the league three times and the cup five times. They also rarely seem to have a bad season as in 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010 they finished as runners-up. That means over the last nine years, they finished outside the top 2 in just two years. 

Their best season as of yet was definitely 2005, when they won the Russian league and cup and also brought home glory by winning the UEFA Cup.
According to Finans Magazine, CSKA have a budget of £44m. That’s £60m less than Zenit have. The ownership of CSKA is not quite clear as well. Until 2005, Abramovich was indirectly involved via the company Sibneft. I say indirectly because under law you are not allowed to be the owner of more than one club. Eventually he was cleared of any wrong doing but sold his stake of Sibneft.

CSKA are probably the only Russian club who doesn’t make a loss every year and still wins titles. 

In fact, since 2004 they spent £82,4m and received £84,8m, resulting in a net spend of +2,4m.

They have never spent more than £8,8m on one player but made a lot of money by selling Krasic (Juventus) for £13m, Zhirkov (Chelsea) for £18,5m and most notably Jo (Manchester City) for £21m.

CSKA can rely on an excellent scouting and on their ability to snap up players on the cheap, develop them and sell them for a lot of money.  CSKA have an eye for promoting players from their youth sides, e.g. Akinfeev or for signing Russian talent from lesser clubs e.g. Dzagoev. Two players, who if sold, could easily net a combined fee of about £30m.
All in all, CSKA’s policy is very admirable; especially if you consider the success on as well as off the pitch. If you make a profit whilst others make big losses and you still bag trophy after trophy you are certainly on the right path. So kudos to them.

Unless something bad happens, these three clubs will be at the top of Russian football for the next years; each team with a different philosophy of how to play football and run a club but all with the aim to please fans and win trophies.

I also believe there is a good chance that in one or two years one could add Anzhi Makhachkala to this group. An up and coming club, bought by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov, who are not afraid to spend big. They already have players like Roberto Carlos, Jucilei (£9m) or Balázs Dzsudzsák (£12,4m). 

Recently, Sky Sports even mentioned them as one of five clubs who made a bid for Brazilian sensation Neymar. I am still not sure whether the link to Samuel Eto’o is actually legit or not, but if they could pull that off, it would be a milestone in football transfer.  

The biggest obstacle Russia has to overcome is the problem of racism. When in the year 2011, fans are still throwing bananas at players (e.g. Roberto Carlos), you can’t be taken seriously and you will miss out on a lot of talented players.  

Written by Simon

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