Mark Temnycky –
With five days remaining in the 2019 Summer Transfer Window, Schalke’s Yevhen Konoplyanka is still uncertain about his future.
Following Konoplyanka’s departure from Spanish club Sevilla in 2017, Konoplyanka has struggled to establish himself in Germany. During his time with Schalke, the Ukrainian saw four managerial changes and a wave of transfers. Konoplyanka also failed to establish himself in Gelsenkirchen as he did not learn German. It is likely these events were factors as to why he was unable to become a regular starter for the club.
Now, with the arrival of David Wagner as Schalke’s new manager, it seems more likely that Shalke and Konoplyanka will part ways. Konoplyanka played a minimal role during the preseason, and he has already been left out of the team sheet at the start of the 2019/20 Bundesliga season. Based on these events, where might the Ukrainian go?
Option 1: Beşiktaş
On the surface, the decision would be rather peculiar.
First, if Konoplyanka struggled to assimilate in German culture, it will be even more challenging to integrate into Turkish society. For example, according to linguists, the Turkish language is more similar to Korean or Mongolian than it is to any Indo-European language. Thus, if the Ukrainian struggled to learn German, it will be even more challenging to learn Turkish.
Second, by comparison of his former Dnipro, Seville, and Gelsenkirchen, Istanbul is a significantly larger and more populated city. This could be overwhelming for a footballer who has traditionally played in smaller cities.
Third, the level of competitive football will decline. According to the recent UEFA Association Club Coefficients, Turkey is ranked as the tenth most competitive league in Europe. In comparison, the Spanish league is ranked in first while the German Bundesliga is ranked fourth. Moreover, in terms of international competitions, Beşiktaş has not appeared in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage since the 2009/10 season. Konoplyanka had previously competed with Sevilla and Schalke in the Champions League. Thus it is an odd decision to trade Champions League football for the UEFA Europa League.
Option 2: AS Roma
Recent reports, however, suggest the deal with Beşiktaş has stalled. Instead, the media is now reporting the Ukrainian may settle in Seria A. The first of the two reported clubs is AS Roma.
The Yellow and Reds struggled last season as they finished in sixth, thus missing out on a Champions League place. Given AC Milan’s ban from European contention, however, AS Roma were promoted to the Europa League Group Stages rather than having to compete in the Europa League playoffs.
As for playing style, should Konoplyanka choose to move to Italy, this may work in his favor. The Italian Serie A is ranked as the third-best league in all of Europe. Thus Konoplyanka would still play at a competitive level of football. Moreover, it would present the opportunity to play against some high profile players at clubs such as Juventus, Napoli, Inter Milan, and AC Milan.
Coincidentally, Ukrainian Vitaliy Khlivnyuk is also one of the Team Managers at AS Roma. Khlivnyuk was previously a Team Manager with Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, and he closely worked with manager Paulo Fonseca. Following Fonseca’s departure from Shakhtar to AS Roma, the Portuguese asked Khlivnyuk to be part of his coaching staff at the Italian club.
As for Konoplyanka’s case, given the winger previously struggled to integrate into Spanish and German society, it is possible Khlivnyuk may take Konoplyanka as an understudy to help him easy into Italian culture, should Konoplyanka’s rumor to Roma transpire into an actual deal.
Option 3: Sampdoria
The second rumored Italian club is Sampdoria. Of the rumored options above, Sampdoria is the lesser-known of three sides.
Since their promotion to the Italian Seria A in 2011/12 season, Sampdoria has established itself as a mid-table club. This would be a change for Konoplyanka, as Dnipro, Sevilla, and Schalke had all previously challenged for silverware in their respective leagues.
Given the winger has struggled in recent years, this may be a nice change of pace for the Ukrainian and would allow him an opportunity to re-establish himself. Should a potential move to Sampdoria be successful, Konoplyanka could reemerge as a quality winger at the club level.
Overall, the three rumored options present unique challenges of their own, but with five days remaining, Konoplyanka will have to make a decision fast. While the season is still early, it is predicted he has fallen out of favor at Schalke and thus a move away from Germany may be best. Therefore, where might the Ukrainian land at the end of the 2019 Summer Transfer Window?
Mark Temnycky is an accredited AIPS journalist who reports on the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Outside of the Futbolgrad Network, he covers Manchester City for SB Nation’s Bitter and Blue. Follow him @MTemnycky