Football Features

Hit or miss? Every player Shakhtar sold for big money

By Squawka News

Published: 17:57, 29 March 2021

Eastern Ukraine is not the most obvious gateway into Europe for the future stars 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.

Yet importing South American talent has been one of the key ingredients behind Shakhtar Donetsk’s success since the turn of the century. They have cast aside their past as perennial runners-up to Dynamo Kiev to become the most dominant club in the Ukrainian Premier League, winning 12 of the last 18 titles.

No longer just a provincial powerhouse hailing from the heavily industrialised Donbass region, the Miners – as they are known – have become the darlings of football hipsters and anoraks alike, and tricky customers for European opponents too.

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.

War may have forced the club to flee from the city of Donetsk to seek shelter in western Ukraine, but that didn’t stop them lifting another Premier League title in 2017, and even amid this crisis they remain one of the most well-known sides outside of Europe’s top five leagues – and a team that always have a few players worth looking up.

How well have Shakhtar’s players done after leaving the club? Their 10 biggest sales are listed below and rated for what became of them and their careers away from the Ukrainian giants.

Elano

Position: Attacking midfielder
Transfer fee: £8m (source: BBC Sport)
Destination: Manchester City

Signed by Sven Goran Eriksson during the Thaksin Shinawatra era, Elano became a fan favourite at Manchester City for his silky midfield play and dead-eye excellence from the penalty spot.

After two years in England, the Brazilian left for Galatasaray in 2009 before turning to Brazil a year later and then trying his hand in China as one of the first big name signings to arrive in the Super League.

He retired in 2016 at Santos, the club where it all began.

Hit or miss? Hit

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

Position: Defensive midfielder
Transfer fee: £10.2m (source: Eurosport)
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

Matuzalem

Position: Defensive midfielder
Transfer fee: compensation of £11m for breach of contract (source: Guardian)
Destination: Real Zaragoza

The Brazilian attempted to force a move to Spain in 2007 by effectively ripping up his contract with Shakhtar to walk out on the club and agree a deal with Real Zaragoza, a move that ended up in legal tangle, a ban from playing that was later overturned and a demand that the midfielder paid his former team compensation.

His career on the pitch never truly recovered, in spite of a successful spell with Lazio that saw him lift the Coppa Italia. He became something of a journeyman who finished his career in 2018 after a spell in Serie D.

Hit or miss? Miss

Douglas Costa

Position: Winger
Transfer fee: £21m (source: BBC Sport)
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 is now back on loan at Bayern from… Juventus! Though with just one goal in 20 games this season, it’s unlikely to turn into a permanent return to Germany.

Hit or miss? Hit

Dmytro Chygrynskiy

Position: Centre-back
Transfer fee: £22m (source: BBC Sport)
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



Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Position: Attacking midfielder
Transfer fee: £24.4m (source: BBC Sport)
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.

Hit or miss? Hit

Willian

Position: Winger
Transfer fee: £30m (source: BBC Sport)
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 at the start of the season, though he hasn’t exactly won over the Gunners’ fanbase as of yet.

Hit or miss? Hit

Fernandinho

Position: Defensive midfielder

Transfer fee: £30m (source: BBC Sport)

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. City will have a hard time replacing him.

Hit or miss? Hit

Alex Teixeira

Position: Forward
Transfer fee: £38.4m (source: BBC Sport)
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. That asterisk can be applied in bold font with Teixeira now a free agent.

Hit or miss? Miss

Fred

Position: Midfielder
Transfer fee: £43.7m (source: Guardian)
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.

However, he failed to make a name for himself under both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2018/19. Fred has slowly but surely established himself in the United starting XI, though there are still doubts as to whether he’s good enough for the levels expected at Old Trafford.

Hit or miss? Miss, but only just.