The Pylyp Budkivskyi Case

The Pylyp Budkivskyi Case

It was a relatively small news piece on the German sports homepage Transfermarkt, which stated that the Russian Football Premier League club Anzhi Makhachkala has loaned Pylyp Budkivskyi from Shakhtar Donetsk—Anzhi also has an option to make the deal permanent.

In Ukraine, the transfer of the Ukrainian national team player to a club in the RFPL was met with disbelief. The sports platform Tribuna immediately included him on a list of shame, which includes all payers who have moved from the Ukrainian Premier League to the RFPL since the start of hostilities in the Donbass.

This list, which includes several high profile Ukrainian players such as national team players Bohdan Butko (Amkar Perm), super talent Oleksandr Zinchenko (FC Ufa now Manchester City), and Yevhen Seleznyov (Kuban Krasnodar now FC Shakhtar), catalogues the reasons for their departures, and notes the clubs that were interested in signing the players before they made their move to Russia.

There are various reasons why players have made the move: in some cases, the player was in disagreement with his previous club and therefore had nowhere else to play (Zinchenko), or the players were sent out on loan (Butko). Others, however, had good offers from clubs abroad but decided to move to Russia anyway (Seleznyov).

Indeed, the Seleznyov controversy was largely covered on this page, as the striker decided to leave Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, because of the financial uncertainty at the club. Yet despite having had offers from several clubs from Turkey and western Europe, Seleznyov decided to move to Russia.

What followed was a soap opera, as Seleznyov struggled in Russia, but was also left on the Ukrainian national team. He then fell out with Kuban’s management, and had his contract terminated. Seleznyov then joined Shakhtar Donetsk before the European Championships kicked off, and was called up to the national team.

In France, Seleznyov was then teammates with Budkivskyi, who played last season at Zorya Luhansk, on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk. Since the outbreak of hostilities, Luhansk has played in exile, but despite being constantly on the road has been a real revelation in the Ukrainian Premier League, and has already qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

Budkivskyi was indeed one of the revelations at the club last season, as he scored 13 goals in 23 games for Zorya. In fact,there was an expectation that he would try to make the first team at Shakhtar Donetsk this year.

Yet Shakhtar’s new coach, Paulo Fonseca, seems to have different plans with Shakhtar, and Budkivskyi was deemed surplus material. Hence, the striker was on the lookout for a new club and, according to Tribuna, had offers from Trabzonspor in Turkey, and also from his old club Zorya, where he could have played in the Europa League.

But instead, Budkivskyi was presented officially as a new player on Anzhi Makhachkala’s homepage on July 14. Budkivskyi told the media, “I wanted to make a step forward, and try a new championship. Anzhi are a very good club, which last season did not play well enough. I hope that this season we can perform successfully. I will try to score goals in every match.”

Many Ukrainians now ask whether that championship had to be in Russia, and why Budkivskyi did not move to another country instead. While the move remains controversial, there is a question mark on how much freedom Budkivskyi was really given in the decision making process.

The ownership of Anzhi and Shakhtar are deeply linked off the pitch, and the two clubs are known to have conducted transfers in order to increase transfer values of players. Hence, Budkivskyi’s transfer could be a long-term investment for both clubs to increase the player’s value for a future transfer.

Regardless, Anzhi has long been viewed as a Kremlin sponsored initiative—maybe rightly so—and the fact that Budkivskyi has moved there has left a bitter aftertaste for many Ukrainian football fans

Manuel Veth