Does the Wayne Rooney story have legs?
It’s undeniable that Anzhi – founded only in 1991 – are an ambitious club after announcing their European aspirations, signing the likes of Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto’o, and paying their reportedly astronomical wages. However, as the players and coach Guus Hiddink have all stated in the past year, the club is trying to build for the future, not buy the title.
"If the owner of Anzhi has a wish to buy somebody, he will go and do it," said Roberto Carlos. "But we are trying to change the image of the club. It’s not just about money." He added: ‘Of course we are going to buy good players but not only international players. We want to sign good Russian players that are not that expensive."
Hiddink was even more succinct on the prospect of signing Rooney: "It is nice to sometimes talk out of the blue without any reality."
Moreover, there’s also the consideration that Rooney and his family might not want to go to Russia. It would be a big surprise if the 27-year-old striker, in the prime of his career, would want to play for a side that, as yet, has no great history or pedigree, competes in an unfamiliar league and has yet to qualify for the Champions League. It’s also debatable if the family man, his now pregnant celebrity wife Coleen and young son would want to leave their large local group of relatives and friends to live in Moscow.
Admittedly, you can never say never, but the chances of it happening soon must be minimal.
That's not to say Anzhi owner Suleiman Kerimov would turn up his nose at the deal if given encouragement.
Kerimov is worth around $6.5 billion dollars, is 146th on the Forbes list and had no qualms about signing Eto'o on a reported $350,000 per week. It’s safe to presume any demands Rooney could make would not be beyond him.
However, the Dagestan native’s focus at Anzhi seems to be about building a club – and regenerating the local area – for the future. Three young forwards were signed this summer: Lacina Traore and Fyodor Smolov (on loan from Dynamo Moscow), both 22, and 18-year-old Serder Serderov. While it’s also one of Kerimov’s priorities to build a new 40,000-seater stadium in Makhachkala.
Ultimately, instead of living and training in Moscow then travelling to Dagestan for home games, the club will probably move full-time to their home city. As such, talented local and Russian players will more likely comprise the bulk of the squad, with perhaps fewer star players tempted or required to make the move.
Hiddink may have been caught out by Roberto Carlos' initial comments about Rooney, but the pair are working well together.
Roberto Carlos is team director after retiring at the age of 39 in August. While the former left-back is undertaking his coaching badges, one of his most prominent roles at the club seems to be as spokesman.
Meanwhile, Hiddink will be 66 on November 8th and has a contract until the end of the season. The Dutchman has previously emphasised that his job is not only to bring in players who will inspire initial success, but also to encourage youth to flourish. In other words, the experienced coach and Roberto Carlos espouse the same club ethos, with the former having greater control on bringing new personnel in.
It's been a relatively bad fortnight for Anzhi. Not only did they lose 1-0 at Liverpool in the Europa League to be leapfrogged by the Reds at the top of Group A; the following Sunday, they lost 2-1 at Rubin to slip to second in the Russian Premier League, a point behind CSKA. And they remain there, despite last Sunday’s 3-1 win at home to Terek in the Caucasian derby.
Yet, before their wobble, Hiddink’s side had been unbeaten in seven league games and reached their highest ever domestic position. Plus, they are still second in their European group behind a team who are five-time continental champions.
So, with Hiddink settled in his job and Anzhi meeting Kerimov's expectations, the immediate need of player of Rooney's calibre isn't a priority.