Anzhi Makhachkala have not found success despite spending hundreds of millions of pounds (Reuters)
Anzhi Makhachkala have not found success despite spending hundreds of millions of pounds (Reuters)

An argument over fertiliser has led to one of the world's richest football clubs selling off some of its best players and its owner being placed on Interpol's most wanted list.

Suleiman Kerimov, the billionaire owner of Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala, faces an international warrant for his arrest following an ongoing row with the world's biggest potash producer and its Belarusian counterpart.

Kerimov, the biggest shareholder in the Russian fertilizer giant Uralkali, is accused of "abuse of power and office" causing economic damage after the company pulled out of a trade agreement with Belarusian potash company Belaruskali on 30 July.

The move sent shares in potash producers crashing worldwide, wiping an estimated £13bn off the value of the top seven potash producers and cost Kerimov himself an estimated £240m.

Together, Uralkali and Belaruskali previously owned up to 40% of the world's potash through the Belarusian Potash Company

Potash is a key ingredient used by farmers in Belarus and accounts for as much as 20% of government revenue.

The Russian tycoon, estimated to be worth more than £4.5bn, faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of the charges.

Vladislav Baumgertner, the chief executive of Uralkali, has already been arrested after he visited Belarus at the invitation of Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich on 26 August.

Suleiman Kerimov faces up to 10 years in jail in convicted (Forbes)
Suleiman Kerimov faces up to 10 years in jail in convicted (Forbes)

As well as the potential jail time, the row over potash between the Russian and Belarusian companies also looks to have ended Kerimov's dream of owning a potentially world-beating football team.

In 2011, Kerimov, Russia's 19th richest man, gained worldwide attention after he bought Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala. He soon signalled his intentions by signing World Cup winner Roberto Carlos, Chelsea full-back Yuri Zhirkov and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o as well as a host of other stars for extortionate amounts.

However, just two and a half years later and after finishing in third place last season, the club announced an end to the club's extravagant spending and even that they will be forced to sell players and slash the budget. The announcement came within days of the potash stock market crash.

After a relatively poor start to the current season, including three draws and two defeats, the club announced that the administration "has made a decision to work out the club's new and long-term development strategy.

"It must be admitted, that the steps taken earlier, which aimed at the fastest achievement of the maximal sports result with the involvement of big signings - were of no success."

In the upcoming weeks, the billionaire-backed club began selling some of their prize assets, including Brazilian midfielder Willian Borges da Silva to Chelsea for £32m along with star player Eto'o - who was the highest paid footballer in the world, earning £350,000 a week.

Russian stars Zhirkov, Igor Denisov and Aleksandr Kokorin were also shipped off to FC Dynamo Moscow as part of the clear out. The club was estimated to have recouped £112m in transfer fees in just one single month.

Kerimov's representatives have refused to draw a connection between the troubles at Uralkali and the mass exodus at the club despite the glaring parallels in fortunes. Anzhi president Konstantin Remchukov said that the reason for the move was the "sharp deterioration in the health of Suleiman Kerimov, because of worries about the club's lack of success".

While the team could certainly still be considered contenders in the Russian league, Kerimov's ambition of following fellow Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich and spending his way to footballing domination now appear over.