Ruslan Rotan – The Midfielder Returns to Ukraine

Ruslan Rotan – The Midfielder Returns to Ukraine

Vadim Furmanov –

Ruslan Rotan, the former Dnipro midfielder who scored a stunning free kick in the 2015 Europa League final, has returned to Ukraine after signing a half-year contract with Dynamo Kyiv. This will be Rotan’s second spell at the capital club. Ten years ago, Dynamo purchased Rotan from Dnipro for $5 million, at the time a record for an intermetal transfer in the country. Despite a promising start, injuries derailed Rotan’s career at Dynamo, and after three seasons he returned to his boyhood club Dnipro, where he spent the next eight years of his career.

With Dnipro relegated to the third division this past summer, Rotan joined every other member of the Europa League semifinalist side and left the club, signing a year-long contract with Czech side Slavia Praha. But the brief and unsuccessful spell at the Czech capital quickly came to an end, and now Rotan finds himself again at Dynamo.

Rotan is the Oldest Signing in Dynamo’s History

While nobody disputes Rotan’s quality as one of Ukraine’s best midfielders of his generation, at 36 years of age, he is the oldest signing in Dynamo’s history. Naturally, the move has raised eyebrows and been called into question by many supporters and the media.

Dynamo have no lack of central midfielders, Rotan’s preferred position. Denys Harmash, Serhiy Sydorchuk, Volodymyr Shepelyev, Vitaliy Buyalskyi, and Mykola Shaparenko all occupy the same space on the pitch. But few if any of these players possess Rotan’s most impressive attributes and abilities as a playmaker – the 19-year old Shaparenko comes the closest. Rotan, therefore, brings a new element to manager Alyaksandr Khatskevich’s side.

But this only begs the question – why would Khatskevich change his tactics halfway through the season to accommodate a veteran close to retirement. Furthermore, considering Shaparenko’s potential and similar play style, wouldn’t Rotan’s future playing time be better used to help the former develop and mature?

On the other hand, Rotan’s experience can indeed be beneficial for the young Shaparenko’s development, and Rotan’s sole presence at the club does not guarantee and significant playing time. Instead, he may be an option off the bench when Dynamo are struggling to break down the defence of teams that sit back against them, which happens quite often in the league.

Rotan: “I am very lucky”

Some observers have compared Rotan’s arrival to Dynamo’s much-criticised decision to bring Oleh Husyev out of retirement in the summer – the winger has made only three league appearances and has failed to make any significant impact since his return.

Ruslan Rotan (l.) is Dynamo Kyiv's oldest ever signing. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Ruslan Rotan (l.) is Dynamo Kyiv’s oldest ever signing. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Husyev, admittedly, is even two years younger than Rotan, but the comparison is inadequate. Husyev’s play has always relied on pace, and a rapid decline in this respect in the past several years meant that his ability to contribute similarly faded. Rotan’s game has never been based on pace, but instead on vision and on-pitch intelligence. Such qualities do not fade with age but only improve. That is not to say that Rotan’s physical decline will have no impact on his performance, just that the comparisons with the Husyev are wide off the mark.

“Dynamo is not a club that requires loud epithets,” Rotan said in his first interview since the move was announced. “I’m very lucky and happy to be here; I hope to play in a way that will please the fans.”

For now, the move has divided opinion. Six months from now, everyone will be in a better position to judge the wisdom of Rotan’s return.

Vadim Furmanov is a first-year student at the Duke University School of Law. Originally from Ukraine, Vadim has resided in Chicago since 1994 (though currently temporarily relocated to North Carolina) and is a passionate supporter of both Dynamo Kyiv and the Ukrainian national team. He writes primarily about Ukrainian football, as well as the intersection between football, politics, and history. You can follow Vadim on Twitter @vfurmanov.