SUCCESS can be bought in football.
Anzhi Makhachkala are the latest club out to prove that theory right, something they may well do over the next few years considering the unimaginable sums of money available to them.
But no matter how many billions a club owner has, and the guy who bought this Russian club has an estimated 8.1 of them, it can’t buy heart and desire.
Put simply, you can’t buy what Steven Taylor has.
Two things decided last night. Papiss Cissé’s injury-time winner and the first-half defending of Taylor when Anzhi looked a class above Newcastle United.
The shouts of “Taylor for England” emanated from the Gallowgate End from early on. It’s hard to fathom what more the guy has to do to get into what is a pretty ordinary squad.
Roy Hodgson has made it clear he believes Rio Ferdinand is the past and yet he picked the Manchester United veteran – still a top-class player as it goes – for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
And yet Taylor, who does it week-in, week-out in the Premier League, is constantly ignored. Someone should send Hodgson a tape of this match and Taylor’s mobile number.
Three times he denied Lassana Diarra from scoring with blocks of bravery and timing in the space of four and a bit first-half seconds
He repeated these heroics when Diarra capitalised on a dreadful Cheick Tiote error on the edge of the box when a goal looked a certainty. But the No 27 read the situation and made sure his body was in the way of the shot.
Mbark Boussoufa had a cross blocked by what looked like Taylor’s groin and then as Jucilei strode forward – a footballer the size of a Russian tank – it was Taylor who stood firm and blocked what was a fiercely hit shot with his stomach – and didn’t even flinch.
This was all in the first 25 minutes when it was pretty much one-way traffic towards the Newcastle goal
Crosses were stopped, tackles won and with the ball at his feet he played the sensible pass to the feet of a team-mate. Taylor even won high balls in the Anzhi box, no mean feat as their average height was eight feet.
We can even forgive him the heinous crime of wearing luminous boots.
And the fact Newcastle got through that 45 minutes without conceding was as important as Cissé’s winning goal.
Anzhi are good, but not great. Not yet anyway. However, they could become a great name over time.
Those who think there is no money in the Europa League should have been at St James’ Park last night.
There are only 145 people in the world with more money than Suleyman Kerimov, the owner of Anzhi Makhachkala.
Mike Ashley is 491th on that list because he’s something of a charity case with an estimated fortune of only £1.8bn. One of them can’t be faulted for the money he’s spent on his football club. The other, well, there are some fans that believe him to have deep pockets and short arms.
I’ll allow you to guess which is which.
For all the money Kerimov has forked out on players, the £6m he’s happy to put into Guus Hiddink’s bank account every year is money well spent.
As Hiddink was about to embark on his European Cup-winning season with PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 1987 – actually he won a Treble – Alan Pardew enjoyed the biggest move of his career when he swapped Yeovil Town for Crystal Palace.
Pardew has been to one cup final, which he lost, while Hiddink has two World Cup semi-final appearances.
So it was not a bad scalp as it happens. Anzhi should have been ahead early on when Sammy Eto’o missed what for him was a good chance after three minutes.
Then Taylor almost single-handedly kept out the yellow shirts as they buzzed around the Newcastle box.
The loss of Yohan Cabaye midway through the first half didn’t help matters, but Newcastle got to half-time still in the game.
Sissoko passed up a few goalscoring opportunities after the break, and then Taylor of all people missed a decent chance on 51 minutes, although he was challenged and the ball was behind him as he tried to get on the end of Papiss Cissé’s knock-down.
Then Newcastle got a break when Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez late tackle on Massadio Haidara earned him a deserved second yellow, and moments later Vurnon Anita should have been given a straight red for a far worse challenge.
Anzhi kept going, and Boussoufa hit the bar with a brilliant free-kick with three minutes of normal time left.
But then with about three seconds remaining, Cissé put his team into the quarter-finals.
He was the hero. Taylor, however, was his side’s inspiration.