Transfer bonanza ends as Russian clubs tighten belts
Russian Premier League clubs have stopped throwing their money around the international transfer market after last year's impressive spree, showing greater restraint during the winter transfer window.
Anzhi Makhachkala, financially backed by oil and metal tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, lead the list of the league's big-spenders after they purchased Brazilian midfielder Willian from Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk for 35 million euros ($48 million).
However, this move was the only big transfer deal in the Russian league in the transfer window that closed this week, in contrast to last year where half a dozen mega signings were made.
After Willian's move, the next biggest deal was by two-time champions Rubin Kazan, who lured midfielder Yann M'Vila from French high-flyers Rennes on a four-year contract for 12 million euros.
The purchase of Portuguese halfback Luis Neto by reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg went almost unnoticed.
All the other Russian league clubs' deals failed to reach the five-million-euro level, while the celebrated return of Brazilian marksman Vagner Love to CSKA Moscow from Flamengo was a free transfer.
"We don't expect any new footballers," Russian Premiership leaders CSKA Moscow head coach Leonid Slutsky said in a recent interview with Sport Express daily.
"We are happy that the majority of our players, who have missed the first half of the season with injuries, managed to overcome their medical problems and are now regaining their form."
Slutsky added that he expected that the return of Ivory Coast forward Seydou Doumbia, who suffered serious back problems last year, will boost his team's attack.
"Doumbia together with Vagner form a very dangerous attacking duo," he said.
"We also have Tomas Necid, who is back in training, and Nigerian attacking midfielder Ahmed Musa, who played in his country's victorious African Nations Cup side. I think we're ready for the season's resumption."
Last February Russian Premiership clubs were considerably more active in the transfer market, bringing into the country Christopher Samba, Pontus Vernbloom, Musa and many others including former compatriots who failed to shine abroad.
Lokomotiv Moscow brought back Russian international forward Roman Pavlyuchenko from Tottenham for 14 million euros, while Spartak repatriated midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov from Everton for almost seven million euros.
In September there was the even more spectacular signings by Zenit of Brazilian star striker Hulk and Belgium's Axel Witsel, bought for a total of 100 million euros in the biggest transfers in Russian football history.
It has been a different story this season, however, with Russia's leading clubs clearly much more reluctant to spend their money in the transfer market window.