French midfielder Lassana Diarra insisted on Monday that the lure of the Russian Premier League title and not money had not been the motivating factor for him joining big-spending Anzhi Makhachkala.
“I have no idea why people say that big money is the only reason to come to play in Russia,” said the 27-year-old, who has signed a three-year deal with the club for an undisclosed fee, at his presentation ceremony in Moscow.
“For me it’s a new challenge. I have spent just a few days in Russia but have enjoyed a very warm reception at Anzhi,” he said.
“I think we should dare to aim for one of the titles this season. Why not, for instance, to win Russian title with Anzhi?”
Diarra, who began his career with Le Havre before spells with English sides Chelsea, Arsenal, Portsmouth and Spanish giants Real Madrid, added: “I have played for wealthy clubs during my career and managed to receive enough money there. So, money wasn’t the main motive for my transfer.
“Just come to see Anzhi matches and watch how I’ll play for my new club and devote myself entirely to the game. After that you’ll understand why I’ve come to Russia.”
Diarra added that the chance to play alongside Cameroon star striker Samuel Eto’o also influenced his move to the club from the Dagestan capital Makhachkala.
“I consider Eto’o to be my elder brother,” said the 23-times capped Diarra. “I hope his advice will help me to reach success in my new team.”
Eto’o is the lynchpin of Dutch manager Guus Hiddink’s side and his reported annual salary of 20 million euros makes him by far the best paid footballer in the world.
Anzhi are currently fourth in the Russian league with 14 points from seven matches, two points behind leading duo Zenit St Petersburg and Terek Grozny.
Anzhi, founded in 1991, had little success until being acquired by Russian metals and oil tycoon Suleiman Kerimov last year and going on a spending spree that landed Eto’o and Brazilian veteran Roberto Carlos.
They have also reached the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, where they face tough opposition from Swiss side Young Boys, English giants Liverpool and Italian Serie A club Udinese.