Shakhtar Owner Akhmetov “We Will Not Give Up!”

Shakhtar Owner Akhmetov “We Will Not Give Up!”

The departure of Mircea Lucescu to Zenit Saint Petersburg is the end of an era at Shakhtar Donetsk. Indeed three days after Shakhtar’s cup victory against Zorya Luhansk there is a general feeling that the club, which has now played in exile for two full seasons, could finally fall apart. On top of Lucescu’s departure there have been rumours that Shakhtar’s owner, the billionaire, Rinat Akhmetov could become tired of investing in the club.

Then on Tuesday night Akhmetov gave a rare interview with the Ukrainian football channel Futbol1 in which he talked about Shakhtar playing in exile. “We have now played away from home for two years in what has been a very difficult situation. Maybe people don’t see this, or don’t want to see it, but it has been very difficult.”

Akhmetov also added that the club needed change going forward, and that the club should now once again compete for titles both at home, and abroad. “We have now adapted to the situation [playing in exile]. At first I thought we cannot compete for medals by playing in exile, but now I want to get my hands on gold medals both in Ukraine but also in Europe.”

Shakhtar’s owner also stated that he understood Lucescu’s decision to leave the club. “With regards to the Mister [Lucescu] I want to note that he is a very ambitious person. … He needed a new challenge, and new emotions. It has been difficult for him to play in front of empty stands in exile.” Akhmetov further added that should the club return to the Donbass, “no matter who coaches Shakhtar at the time, the Mister [Lucescu] will be entrusted to coach the team at the first game back at the Donbass Arena.”

But while Akhmetov had positive words for Lucescu he also hinted that the club also felt that it was time for change. “The Miners needed fresh blood. I am convinced the situation will benefit everyone involved: the Mister, the club, and the fans.”

A similar message was also repeated on Shakhtar’s official homepage on May 24, where Akhmetov released an official statement as part of the 80th anniversary of the club. Here Akhmetov told the fans to remain patient, and that the club will soon return to be a contender.

Meanwhile Shakhtar Donetsk have already approached several candidates to take over from Lucescu. Futbolgrad has learned that Shakhtar Donetsk would prefer to sign a Portuguese speaking coach, as the club still has several Brazilian players on the books, and in future wants to once again focus on signing Brazilian players, but also players from Portugal.

With this in mind Sporting Clube de Braga’s head coach Paulo Fonseca, who is understood to be close to reaching a deal with Shakhtar, seems to be a strong candidate—although unlike Lucescu, Fonseca does not speak Russian. Shakhtar know Fonseca well, as Shakhtar and Braga met in the quarterfinal of the Europa League this season. Despite Shakhtar’s easy victory (5-2 on aggregate) Shakhtar’s management were impressed by how Fonseca took a small club to the last eight of the competition.

Braga’s Taça de Portugal (Portuguese Cup) victory on Sunday against FC Porto (4-2 after extra time) further convinced Shakhtar’s bosses that Fonseca is the right man for the new Shakhtar project. Several Portuguese papers already announced the deal as done on Tuesday, but neither club has officially confirmed the appointment yet.

Regardless of Shakhtar’s pursuit of Fonseca, who is rumoured to earn €2 million a season if he signs with Shakhtar, the pursuit of Ronseca underlines that the club is once again willing to challenge for titles, and that Akhmetov has not given up on his football project.

By Manuel Veth –