Manuel Veth –
Willian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Douglas Costa, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fernandinho. The list of former Shakhtar Donetsk players that have eventually made their way to a big club in the West is long, and with the likes of Bernard, Taison, Marlos, Viktor Kovalenko and Fred in the side the next big move is just around the corner.
Shakhtar have had a fantastic season in the Champions League, which brought the likes of Bernard, who is a free agent at the end of the season, and Fred back on the radar of big clubs in England and Spain. Fred, it now appears has made his way into Pep Guardiola’s scouting book.
The Spanish Manchester City manager had a chance to carefully study Fred’s game in the two encounters the Citizens had with the Miners in the UEFA Champions League this season. Featured in a Futbolgrad Network scouting report Fred played all six Champions League games for Shakhtar this season and was a significant part in the club shocking Napoli as well as Sporting Lisbon to take the second spot in the group and advance to the round of 16 of the Champions League.
There Shakhtar Donetsk will face Roma and while the Italians will be favourites to advance Shakhtar Donetsk have a fighting chance to advance to the quarterfinals. To achieve that the club will do their utmost to keep the current squad together until the end of the season. The purchase of Dodô, in fact, highlights that Shakhtar for the first time in four years will become a buyer’s club in the January market rather than a seller’s club.
Players like Fred are in Short Supply
At the same time, the likes of Fred have become a hot commodity. Manchester City, in particular, are interested in signing the diminutive central midfielder, who at times displays shades of N’Golo Kanté and Naby Keïta. Keïta, in particular, was on the Citizens radar before Liverpool nailed down the RB Leipzig midfielder early by agreeing to a deal that would keep him in Germany until next summer.
The likes of Kanté and Keïta have become part of a new English Premier League trend. Technical gifted small defensive midfielders, who can both destroy, but also act as playmakers. Some hail the advancement of such players as the rise of a destructive style that will harm the play rather than further it and disagree with the amount paid for box-to-box midfielders these days.
The reality, of course, is different neither Keïta, Kanté or Fred are destructive forces. Instead, they keep their team together on both ends of the field acting like the glue that can stretch to create flexibility in midfield.
City have a player like that right now in former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fernandinho. Signed from Shakhtar for €40 million in the summer of 2013 Fernandinho played eight years for Shakhtar before making a move to England. Now, 32-years old Fernandinho was described by Fred as a role model.
“It would be a dream to follow Fernandinho’s footsteps because he is my role model. I am flattered by comparisons with him because he is one of the best Brazilians to have played for Shakhtar, but it is too early to make such statements,” Fred told Ukrainian media one year ago. The statement on its own, of course, does not mean that Fred will automatically move to Manchester City.
At the same time, there is a general sense that City are looking at the player as a potential long-term replacement for Fernandinho. It would, therefore, make sense for City to approach Shakhtar in the summer—whether Shakhtar will sell is another question of course. But for Fred a move to City, while Fernandinho is still there, would make sense.
Fred is Still a raw Product
Fred is a gifted player, who at times still focuses too much on the attacking end rather than the defensive end of the game. Playing in the Ukrainian Premier League, which has been severely hurt by the conflict in the Donbass, Fred does not face the sort of competition Fernandinho faced when he played for Shakhtar. Fred, therefore, would need some seasoning in a top flight before he could step into Fernandinho’s shoes.
Another factor that has to be kept in mind is that Fred lost some playing time due to a doping case. The midfielder missed 13 games last season after failing a doping test during the 2015 Copa America. Fred was first banned by CONMEBOL and then FIFA. He, therefore, missed the end of the 2015-16 season and then again, the remainder of the 2016-17 season in what turned out to be a complicated doping story overall.
The doping story, in fact, could be one of the reasons why Fred remained with Shakhtar until now. A player like him, who can easily play in the double pivot or as a single defensive midfielder is always in high demand. Now with the doping ban finally in the past and in the middle of what appears to be another season the time is now for Fred to become the next great player on a long list of Shakhtar legends that made it big in the West.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.