Football Features

Hit or miss? Every player Shakhtar sold for big money

By Squawka News

Published: 22:20, 16 January 2023 | Updated: 13:58, 19 January 2023

Shakhtar Donetsk have been one of the most successful Ukrainian clubs in the 21st century and they’ve done it while raising stars.

Eastern Ukraine is not the most obvious gateway into Europe for the future big names of Brazilian football. When crossing the Atlantic Ocean, or going the long way round over the Pacific, there are many more obvious entry points that must be flown over and bypassed.

England, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain all come first, no matter which way the crow flies. In terms of climate and culture, other countries would appear to offer a more familiar environment to live and work in, especially around the Mediterranean.

Their investment in Brazilian players goes beyond the usual routes of scouting and signing on fees. After taking the strategic decision to start bringing in foreign flair players in order to augment their squad in 2004, with homegrown players trusted to staff the defence and keep the team’s shape, Shakhtar have gone to great lengths to make their growing South American contingent feel at home and keep them occupied. They even built an aviary full of exotic birds and created a fishing lake.

And it’s worked. Of Shakhtar Donetsk’s top 10 departures in terms of funds received, seven are Brazilian; and between 2018 and 2023 the number one was.

However, there is a new record departure at Shakhtar.

Throughout December, Mykhaylo Mudryk had been flirting with Arsenal on his Instagram account, with the Gunners highly interested in signing the Ukranian. But Shakhtar were holding firm on their asking price of over €100m which Arsenal weren’t willing to pay.

Negotiations continued and appeared to be coming to a close, but then Chelsea swooped in and within what appeared to be a matter of hours, Mudryk was a Blue. With an initial fee of £62.1m, Chelsea could end up paying close to £100m for the Ukrainian due to add-ons, thumping Shakhtar’s previous best free.

But how well have Shakhtar’s big departures done after leaving the club? Their 10 biggest sales (excluding Mudryk) are listed below and rated for what became of them and their careers away from the Ukrainian giants.

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

Position: Defensive midfielder
Transfer fee: £10.2m
Destination: Zenit St. Petersburg

Regarded as one of the greatest Ukrainian players of the modern era, Tymoshchuk left Shakhtar for Zenit in 2007 after making 326 appearances for the Miners.

He picked up two league titles in his two spells with the Russian club, either side of a four-year stint with Bayern Munich, with whom he won a historic treble in 2013.

He retired in 2016 as one of the most decorated players his country has produced in decades.

Hit or miss? Hit

Dodo

Position: Right-back
Transfer fee: £12.8m
Destination: Fiorentina

One of two players on this list to have left Shakhtar this season, Dodo joined the Ukrainian side from Coritiba in 2018 and after a season on loan with Vitoria, made his way into the first team.

In three full seasons with Shakhtar after his loan away, Dodo would play 97 times for the club, helping them win the league title and Ukrainian Super Cup — having already secured the Ukrainian Cup in his first season. Dodo’s performances at right-back had caught the eye of Fiorentina, who forked out €15m and he’s been a regular in their starting XI since.

Hit or miss? Too early to tell

David Neres

Position: Winger
Transfer fee: £12.8m
Destination: Benfica

A Brazilian not doing the Brazil to Ukraine route, David Neres made his move to Europe in 2017, joining Dutch side Ajax. There, he made his name as part of the team which reached the Champions League semi-finals and won three Eredivisie titles and two Dutch Cups.

Across 180 appearances for Ajax, Neres scored 47 goals but he was falling out of favour, which led to Shakhtar Donestk signing him at the start of 2022. Unfortunately, Neres didn’t play for Shakhtar before being sold to Benfica in the summer.

He’s re-found form as part of Benfica’s title-chasing team, scoring four goals and providing three assists in 13 league appearances.

Hit or miss? Too early to tell

Douglas Costa

Position: Winger
Transfer fee: £21m
Destination: Bayern Munich

Costa was brought in to help Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich break down teams through his skill and trickery down the wings. He thrived with the Bavarians in the Bundesliga, winning two titles and the DFB-Pokal cup but lost his place in the team following Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival at the Allianz Arena, and was loaned to Juventus in 2017 where he impressed with a string of impressive displays.

Curiously, after being loaned from Bayern to Juventus, he went back on loan to Bayern from… Juventus! There was no permanent move to Germany, however, and he now resides in LA, joining LA Galaxy in the summer.

Hit or miss? Hit

Dmytro Chygrynskiy

Position: Centre-back
Transfer fee: £22m
Destination: Barcelona

A tall, strong and skilful ball-playing centre-back, the Ukrainian was personally picked out by Guardiola who wanted to bring him to Barcelona as a successor to Carles Puyol.

He proved to be an expensive error for the Catalan and wilted under the pressure of playing for the Spanish giants. After only one season in La Liga he was sold back to Shakhtar in 2010 to spend four more seasons in Donetsk before joining regional rivals Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in 2014.

In 2016 he joined Greek side AEK Athens and while he may have enjoyed a solid career since leaving for Barcelona, he has never come close to realising the potential he was supposed to possess.

Hit or miss? Miss


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Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Position: Attacking midfielder
Transfer fee: £24.4m
Destination: Borussia Dortmund

The Armenian was regarded as one of the most exciting and creative talents in Europe during his time in Donetsk, and was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool before Jurgen Klopp came calling with Borussia Dortmund.

He joined Manchester United in 2016 and won the EFL Cup and Europa League in his first season under Jose Mourinho before being sold to Arsenal in January 2018, bagging a hat-trick of assists on his home debut for the club.

However, Mkhitaryan struggled overall in England, admitting he fell out of love with the game, saying: “I have to enjoy playing football, no matter the place. In England, I no longer felt this pleasure.”

The Armenian was loaned to Roma in 2019 and after rediscovering his golden touch, has since made his move to Italy permanent, continuing to thrive.

Hit or miss? Hit

Willian

Position: Winger
Transfer fee: £30m
Destination: Anzhi Makhachkala

A two-time Premier League winner with Chelsea, Willian joined the Blues in 2013 and quickly became an asset to Jose Mourinho as a hard-working winger following a short spell with Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala.

Far from a guaranteed starter under Antonio Conte, though increasingly seen as a star in his own right, the Brazilian has proven his quality across the years.

Dividing opinions among the Stamford Bridge faithful, he left for London rivals Arsenal but didn’t have the same success. After a brief spell back boyhood club Corinthians, Willian returned to London, this time joining Fulham.

Hit or miss? Hit

Fernandinho

Position: Defensive midfielder

Transfer fee: £30m

Destination: Manchester City

Signed by Manchester City to cover for Yaya Toure’s match-winning runs from midfield, Fernandinho has proven himself to be an asset for the club, providing the on-field balance to help win three Premier League titles and five EFL Cups.

A hard-working all-rounder, he was one of the first names on the team sheet in the holding role for Manuel Pellegrini and established himself as a key member of Guardiola’s side whether in midfield or defence. He left Man City a club legend.

Hit or miss? Hit

Alex Teixeira

Position: Forward
Transfer fee: £38.4m
Destination: Jiangsu Suning

Another Shakhtar attacker linked with Liverpool after scoring 26 goals in 25 games in his final season in Ukraine, Teixeira opted to move to China rather than the Premier League and signed for Jiangsu Suning in 2016.

He did fairly well in the Super League but for many, it will come with an asterisk, with Teixeira considered a wasted talent.

Hit or miss? Miss

Fred

Position: Midfielder
Transfer fee: £43.7m
Destination: Manchester United

Another Shakhtar star that left the club last summer was Brazilian midfielder Fred. The player was the only major signing by Manchester United in the summer, catching the eye with Shakhtar making over 150 appearances and scoring 14 goals.

He failed to make a name for himself in his early stages at Old Trafford but after a few years, he is undoubtedly one of the first names on the Man Utd teamsheet. Under Erik ten Hag’s tutelage, Fred has become arguably one of the best midfielders in the Premier League this season.

Fred finally has respect on his name.

Hit or miss? Hit.