What does the nurturing of professional football clubs by Russia's billionaire oligarchs say about the country's coming presidential election? In the case of at least one oligarch, it may mean a bet that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is headed back to the Kremlin next year. Last week, mining billionaire Suleiman Kerimov made Camaroonian star forward Samuel Eto'o (pictured above in Moscow) the highest-paid soccer player in the world with a salary of $29 million a year. He'll play for Kerimov's Anzhi Makhachkala club, based in his boyhood home, the Russian region of Dagestan. According to Jonathan Wilson at the Guardian, the London newspaper, this is all about pleasing Putin, who has long urged Russia's oligarchs to put their wealth into the country's struggling regions. The soccer club has a long history of supporting Putin.
Is this a shrewd bet? Do you agree that Putin is returning to the presidency? Or will he elect to keep President Dmitry Medvedev in his post? Perhaps Putin will spring a surprise and put someone else in the slot?
Just three days remain to voice your opinion in the Kremlin Contest, O&G's wagering competition for who will be Russia's next president. Using the email link to the right on this blog just above my photo, tell me your best guess for Russia's next president, prime minister, and the date Putin will make his wishes known. For your bet to be valid, you must make a small non-cash wager. Current examples have been mugs, t-shirts and glasses of wine.
Steve LeVine is the author of The Oil and the Glory and a longtime foreign correspondent.