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Aug 1, 2012

Hiddink keen to make Anzhi a top team

Former Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink has said he is aiming to make big-spending Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala one of the teams to beat in the domestic league.

The 65-year-old Dutchman, who led Russia's national side to the semi-finals of Euro 2008, said he was impressed with the improvements at the club since he joined and assessed that the club was becoming an emerging force.

"Last season we clinched a place in the top eight of the league and managed to come closer to the leaders, finishing fifth and winning the right to take a start in the UEFA Europa League," he said.

"This season we should continue our gradual development to join the group of the Russian league's perennial leaders and stay there.

"We'd also like to win a place in the Europa League group stage. It will be very useful both for our young and growing club and Anzhi's international image."

Anzhi, founded in 1991, have enjoyed little success in Russian football until they were bought by tycoon Suleyman Kerimov last year, embarking on a spending spree that landed them Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o and Brazilian veteran Roberto Carlos.

The club also brought back Russian international left-winger Yury Zhirkov from English Premiership side Chelsea.

On top of all that, they hired Hiddink on a 18-month contract for a reported net annual salary of up to 10 million euros ($13 million).

Hiddink, though, expressed his disappointment with a UEFA ban against playing Europa League matches in Makhachkala for security reasons.

Anzhi players live and train in the Moscow region and travel 1,250 miles only travel to Makhachkala - capital of the impoverished and volatile Russian republic of Dagestan - for their Russian Premier League home games.

"I'm really sorry that UEFA prohibited us to play the Europa League matches in Makhachkala," he said.

"It's a pity that we will be deprived of our home town fans' support. Their support at our home matches is terrific. It inspires us like nothing else."

Hiddink, meanwhile, said he was happy with the performances of young home-grown footballers in the Anzhi line-up.

"It's our way - to invite stars, who are capable to shine both in the Russian league and the Eurocups just after their arrival," Hiddink said.

"However, I'm also set give chances to the young Russian players like Fedor Smolov and Serder Serderov, who recently joined our club."

"We (Russian club managers) should pay plenty of attention to rising of the young talents having in mind that Russia will stage the World Cup in 2018. Of course we will begin to prepare players who will play for Russia in 2018 right now."

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