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Israel star Yossi Benayoun insists he won't play in Russia, but for the moment, a Russian club is the only one to have put the money on the table for the Racing Santander midfielder. FC Moscow is willing to pay 4.5 million euros for the player who has been linked with a number of clubs in England and Spain, but with no concrete offers forthcoming as yet.

FC Moscow can hardly be counted as one of Russia's biggest clubs and the question arises: How can a team that finished only ninth in the Russian first division last year afford such a sum?

In today's Russia, a budget is an amorphous concept and FC Moscow, which until last year was known as Torpedo Metalurg, supposedly has a 15-million euro framework for this season. The club's main sponsor is metals giant Norilsk Nickel and the man signing the checks is billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov - the same Mikhail Prokhorov who poured $35 million into CSKA Moscow basketball club's failed attempt to win the Euroleague championship on home soil last season.

The suffix Moscow was given to the soccer club at the initiative of the city's mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The decision was no coincidence, says Russian journalist Yevgeni Dezichkovski. Luzhkov, one of the most influential people in Russian politics, is also the No. 2 man at the club.

Ten games into the current season, FC Moscow is fifth in the league and hopes to book a European competition spot for next season. The club's coach, Valeri Petrakov, wants to add a creative element to his midfield to supply front men Hector Bracamonte and Dmitri Kirichenko.

The club may be close to a Top Four spot, but it still lacks initiative and prowess up front and Benayoun could be the right man at the right time for Petrakov. With wages of 1.2 million euros a season on the table, Benayoun, despite his denials, will be tempted to at least consider the offer.

The question for Benayoun is whether Russia can be a stop on the way to one of Europe's top clubs. With Moscow clubs CSKA, Dynamo, Spartak and Lokomotiv all boasting budgets of around 50 million euros, the Russian league is on a par with the French league, at least financially speaking. Quality wise, players like Daniel Carvalho and Wagner Love of CSKA consider the Russian league a fitting place to ply their wares, so Benayoun will not be in bad company if he does choose to move to FC Moscow.