Has any team had a more eventful Champions League campaign than Shakhtar Donetsk so far?
The Ukrainian champions followed up a shock 3-2 win over Real Madrid with a draw against Inter and a crushing 6-0 loss at the hands of Monchengladbach.
The latest stars donning that immaculate orange and black strip include 2020 Golden Boy candidate Marcos Antonio, Brazil international Taison and precocious Los Blancos nemesis Tete, with the former and latter producing wonders to put Zinedine Zidane’s men to the sword.
But the Miners’ current superstars are just the latest bunch to emerge from a seemingly perpetual conveyor belt. Ten years ago Mircea Lucescu’s men were Ukrainian treble winners and causing quite the stir in Europe, similar to their exploits this season.
En route to the 2010/11 quarter-finals, Shakhtar stunned Arsenal 2-1 at the Donbass Arena and topped Group H above Arsene Wenger’s side. They also thrashed Roma 6-2 on aggregate in the round-of-16, before eventually being stopped in their tracks by that season’s winners, Barcelona.
Lionel Messi and Co went to work for Pep Guardiola’s men in the quarter-finals, but Shakhtar’s run, which included a 3-2 first leg win over Roma in the Italian’s backyard, remains a lasting image of 2010/11. But, which players were involved in that memorable campaign for Shakhtar?
Goalkeeper: Andriy Pyatov
Appearances for Shakhtar: 464
Current side: Shakhtar
Pyatov’s longevity between the sticks for Shakhtar has seen him become synonymous with the club he has been donning the gloves for since 2007. He was present when Shakhtar shocked the continent and won the UEFA Cup in 2009 and he is still going strong now at the age of 36.
The club’s third-highest appearance maker was inspirational in the round-of-16 triumph over Roma that season, saving a Marco Borriello penalty in the second leg to keep his clean sheet in tact and put the gloss on a momentous 3-0 win.
He has mirrored those dextrous exploits in the competitions many years since, denying the likes of Sergio Aguero and Josip Ilicic from the spot…
⛔ Andriy Pyatov’s every spot-kick save in the @ChampionsLeague 🔝
🆚 Atalanta (01/10/2019)
🆚 Manchester City (26/09/2017)
🆚 Malmo (21/10/2015)
🆚 Porto (30/09/2014)
🆚 Roma (08/08/2011)
Which save is the best? pic.twitter.com/3RiGQ7StD5
— FC SHAKHTAR ENGLISH (@FCShakhtar_eng) October 5, 2019
Right-back: Darijo Srna
Appearances for Shakhtar: 536
Current side: Shakhtar (director of football)
Mr Shakhtar himself. Darijo Srna is a club legend in every sense and continues to play a prominent role for the Miners despite hanging up his boots in 2019. Now a director of football for the club, Srna was a buccaneering full-back during his heyday and rejected offers from the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich to remain loyal to Shakhtar.
“I told the president that I would be happier to claim the domestic league title with Shakhtar than the Champions League with Barcelona,” Srna once said. Well, he collected 10 Ukrainian Premier League trophies for the club he loved, and he is now responsible for ensuring his legacy lives on and Shakhtar remain a force in Europe.
That season he had the unenviable task of marking Lionel Messi, whom he had previous with, having collided with the diminutive genius in the 2009 Super Cup, with the two clashing and exchanging glancing ‘headbutts’…
Centre-back: Dmytro Chygrynskiy
Appearances for Shakhtar: 186
Current side: AEK Athens
Dmytro Chygrynskiy arrived from Shakhtar in 2009 during the same window as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the pony-tail duo followed similar trajectories at the Camp Nou, with both leaving the following year. Since then, though, their paths have been different.
Ibra went to Milan on loan and has since terrorised the best European defences for the past decade (with a brief stint in the MLS) while Chygrynskiy returned to Shakhtar but has never truly recapture the form from his early years.
Now playing for AEK Athens, it is a huge fall from grace for a player once earmarked to marshal Barcelona’s backline by one of the greatest coaches ever to occupy the dugout, Guardiola, who first brought him to the Camp Nou.
Centre-back: Yaroslav Rakitskiy
Appearances for Shakhtar: 325
Current side: Zenit Saint Petersburg
The Ukraine international has been an integral member of Zenit’s last two Russian Premier League triumphs, but before that, he was protecting Pyatov’s goal in the heart of Shakhtar’s rearguard. An academy product, Rakitskiy played for the Miners between 2009 and 2018, and that season he was an impressive component of Lucescu’s defence, scoring the only goal for Shakhtar in their 5-1 defeat to Barcelona at the Camp Nou. That’ll be a story for the grandkids.
Left-back: Razvan Rat
Appearances for Shakhtar: 300
Current side: Retired
If you’re a West Ham fan look away now, if you’re a Football Manager aficionado, keep reading. The Romanian was another member of Shakhtar’s famous UEFA Cup triumph in 2009 and enjoyed a trophy-laden career for the club between 2003 and 2013. From there he joined Sam Allardyce’s Hammers but had his contract terminated just six months later.
Central midfield: Fernandinho
Appearances for Shakhtar: 284
Current side: Man City
Before the Citizens moved and secured the metronomic Brazilian for £34m in 2013, Fernandinho was expertly anchoring Shakhtar’s midfield for eight years. Signed from boyhood club Atletico Paranaense in 2005, Fernandinho was one of the first to take that now illustrious path from South America to Shakhtar, and he proved a major success story. Fans will be hoping current midfield maestro Marcos Antonio can follow a similar journey.
Central midfield: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Appearances for Shakhtar: 106
Current side: Roma
It was not uncommon for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to occupy a central role back in the day. The Fernandinho-Mkhitaryan partnership must have been a joy to watch in the Ukrainian Premier League (when deployed), with the Brazilian offering defensive virtuosity and the Armenian showcasing a creative star quality.
‘Micki’ hasn’t had the most conventional of career paths, but one could argue that he is another to take that well-trodden path from Brazil to Shakhtar. During the earlier years in his career, the Roma winger had trials for Sao Paulo, where he played alongside Oscar and Hernanes of all people, before returning to his homeland.
“The work is different with respect to Europe. It’s all based on technique. I improved my dribbling and [after French] learned Portuguese, a wonderful language,” Mkhitaryan reflected. That Samba flair was certainly evident in his play at Shakhtar and Dortmund, but less so for Man Utd and Arsenal.
Appearances for Shakhtar: 221
Current side: Arsenal
Willian’s stint at Shakhtar is well-documented. After completing a move from Corinthians in 2007, the Brazilian wide man went on to lift four league titles and the UEFA Cup. A lucrative move to Anzhi Makhachkala soon followed, but when that project to become European royalty hit a snag, Willian relocated to English football, first joining Chelsea after completing a Tottenham medical, before returning to rub salt in the Lilywhites’ wounds by joining arch-rivals Arsenal in the summer just gone.
Central attacking midfield: Alex Teixeira
Appearances for Shakhtar: 222
Current side: Jiangsu Suning
The one-time Liverpool target looked set to move to Anfield in 2016 before Jurgen Klopp pulled the plug owing to Shakhtar’s eye-watering asking price. Teixeira was hot property at the time and scoring goals at an absurd rate, but he ultimately packed up and move to the Far East to play for Jiangsu Suning, where he remains to this day. The Brazilian did admit that he “wanted to stay in Europe and move to the Premier League” but the temptation of a handsome wage package in the Chinese Super League was too alluring.
Left-wing: Douglas Costa
Appearances for Shakhtar: 202
Current side: Bayern Munich (on loan from Juventus)
What a frontline. Costa causing devastation from the left, Willian terrorising from the right, Teixeira wreaking havoc through the middle, and all while Fernandinho and Mkhitaryan were threading balls through. Costa was sensational that season, netting against Roma in the 3-2 win and Braga in the group stages. The Gremio graduate has truly followed in the footsteps of another one-time Gremio wonderkid, Ronaldinho, as one of Europe’s trickiest and most entertaining wide players. He also has a pretty nifty CV, with two spells each at Bayern Munich and Juventus to write home about.
Appearances for Shakhtar: 175
Current side: Retired
It is one of football’s biggest regrets: Eduardo’s injury for Arsenal. He was a goalscoring fiend and had the world at his feet when he moved to north London in 2007. But, following that tackle he was forced to rebuild his career and he gave it a good go at Shakhtar, whom he represented across two different spells and made nearly 200 appearances for, winning trophies aplenty. That season he did return to face Arsenal, scoring at the Emirates to an emotional reception, and the winner in a 2-1 triumph over the Gunners a fortnight later.