Over the past decade, the Europa League has been dominated by La Liga and Premier League sides – but it wasn’t always so.
In recent years, Uefa’s second-most prestigious trophy has been lifted no fewer than six times by clubs hailing from Spain, with Atletico Madrid and Sevilla winning three each, while English giants Manchester United and Chelsea (twice) have also tasted glory.
In fact, the 2010/11 all-Portuguese final between Porto and Braga was the last time a team from one of these nations didn’t make the final two.
However, in 2008/09, the competition’s final season as the “Uefa Cup”, something completely unexpected happened: Shakhtar Donetsk beat Werder Bremen in the final to become the first Ukrainian side to win a major European honour since the 1980s.
Spearheaded by a cast of brilliant Brazilians and backed up by some stalwart natives, this Shakhtar side was multi-cultural and multi-functional with a whole host of cult names.
So, what happened to this side after their Uefa Cup triumph? Let’s take a look…
Goalkeeper: Andriy Pyatov
Club: Shakhtar Donetsk
11 years later, Andriy Pyatov is still going strong between the sticks for Shakhtar having now notched up over 450 appearances for the club in all competitions — the third-highest of any player. A true club legend, Pyatov has lifted no fewer than nine league titles with Hirnyky, as well as eight Ukrainian cups.
To date, he also has 93 caps for the Ukraine national team and as long as his body holds out, he should quickly hit the 100 mark.
Right-back: Darijo Srna
Shakhtar’s all-time appearance record holder with 536 outings for the club, Darijo Srna wore the captain’s armband and was the man who got to lift the Uefa Cup aloft back in 2009.
Like Pyatov, Srna won a whole host of honours with Shakhtar and is one of, if not the most revered player ever to don the orange and black shirt. However, his career wasn’t totally without controversy, with the 134-time Croatia international a ban from September 2017 to August 2018 for failing a doping test.
Now 38, Srna retired in 2019 after a one-season spell with Italian side Cagliari.
Centre-back: Oleksandr Kucher
Oleksandr Kucher carried on at Shakhtar for another eight years following their Uefa Cup win, racking up 295 appearances for the club in total before finally leaving to join Turkish Super Lig side Kayserispor in 2017.
In two seasons there, he helped guide the club to respectable ninth and 10th-placed finishes, making exactly 50 appearances across all competitions.
He retired from the game in 2019 with 57 caps for Ukraine under his belt.
Centre-back: Dmytro Chygrynskiy
Club: AEK Athens
Dmytro Chygrynskiy’s performances in the 2008/09 season were impressive enough to persuade Barcelona to part with €25m in order to secure his services, becoming the first Ukrainian to ever play for the club. Bizarrely, Barca even allowed the centre-back to line-up against them for his former club in the 2010 Uefa Super Cup, which the Blaugrana won 1-0.
Chygrynskiy lasted just one year with Barca, however, unable to supplant the likes of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, returning to Shakhtar in 2010 for just €15m.
Chygrynskiy was never quite the same upon his return and failed to hold down a regular place in the starting XI. Now 33, he turns out for AEK Athens these days having also featured for Dnipro.
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Left-back: Razvan Rat
Razvan Rat spent a wonderfully successful decade at Shakhtar between 2003 and 2013, making exactly 300 appearances for the club and winning a bucket load of titles.
However, upon departing in 2013, the Romanian left-back enjoyed something of a nomadic career, taking in spells in England with West Ham United, Spain with Rayo Vallecano, Greece with PAOK and, finally, back in his homeland with Poli Timisoara before retiring in 2018.
Central midfield: Fernandinho
Club: Manchester City
Fernandinho remained with Shakhtar until 2013 before finally moving to Manchester City for £34m. The rest, as they say, is history.
The 53-time Brazil international has gone on to become one of the most effective and respected holding midfielders in world football, making over 300 appearances for the Citizens under Manuel Pellegrini and, later, Pep Guardiola.
Fernandinho has won three Premier League titles with City so far and with a one-year contract extension signed in January, you wouldn’t bet against him adding to that, even as he advances deep into his thirties.
Central midfield: Mariusz Lewandowski
The admittedly less glamorous of Shakhtar’s deep midfield pairing, Mariusz Lewandowski was no less effective than Fernandinho over his 275-game stay with the club.
Lewandowski left the club at the end of the following season and saw out his career with a four-year stay at FC Sevastopol before retiring in 2014 with 66 caps for Poland to his name.
The 41-year-old now manages Polish side Termalica Nieciecza.
Right wing: Ilsinho
Club: Philadelphia Union
Ilsinho left Shakhtar in 2010 to play for Santos and Internacional in his homeland before returning to Ukraine for another four years in January 2012, although his second spell at the club wasn’t quite as effective.
Famed for his trickery and putting more focus on entertaining the crowd rather than necessarily worrying about results, Ilsinho now struts his stuff for MLS side Philadelphia Union, where he’s taken up something of a super-sub role.
Attacking midfield: Jadson
Club: Free agent
Scorer of the winning goal in the final against Werder Bremen, Jadson was one of Shakhtar’s most important players during their Uefa Cup run, scoring nine times in European play that season.
His form reportedly brought him to the brink of a move to Arsenal in 2011 to replace Samir Nasri, but that never transpired. Instead, Jadson returned to Brazil in 2012, turning out for Sao Paulo and Corinthians — winning the Copa Sudamericana with the former and the Brazilian title with the latter — while he also won the 2013 Confederations Cup at international level.
Jadson left Corinthians for Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian in 2016 but returned to his homeland after just a year.
Now 36, he is a free agent having been released from Corinthians in 2019.
Left wing: Willian
The one player in this line-up who can compete with Fernandinho in terms of success, Willian stuck around with Shakhtar until 2013 when Anzhi Makhachkala paid €35m to make him the latest piece in their incredibly ambitious — and ultimately unsuccessful — project. Willian played just 17 games for Anzhi before the Russian club decided to transfer list their entire squad.
Chelsea were Willian’s saving grace and despite receiving some rather unfair criticism from Chelsea fans — as well as often being linked with Barcelona — the 70-time Brazil international has won five major trophies with the Londoners so far, making over 300 appearances in all competitions.
Following the post-lockdown return of the Premier League, Willian was arguably Chelsea’s best player alongside fellow wide-man Christian Pulisic, although he will leave the London club at the end of the season as a free agent.
Striker: Luiz Adriano
Scorer of the opening goal in the final, Luiz Adriano looked to have hit the jackpot when he moved to AC Milan in 2015 having scored a very impressive 128 goals in 266 games for Shakhtar.
However, his Italian adventure didn’t exactly go to plan as Adriano scored just six goals in 36 appearances across all competitions. A year later, he was in Russia with Spartak Moscow.
The striker fared slightly better with Spartak, netting 24 times in 75 games in all competitions, but now finds himself back in Brazil with Palmeiras. Adriano’s international career spanned just four senior appearances between 2014 and 2015, yielding no goals.