Ukrainian sides go back to basics
If evidence was needed that football has not escaped the grip of the global credit crunch then the Ukrainian Premier League provides it, with activities during the winter break unusually subdued...
If evidence was needed that football has not escaped the grip of the global credit crunch then the Ukrainian Premier League provides it, with activities during the winter break unusually subdued. Twelve months ago teams were travelling far afield for training camps in warmer climes, swelled by new signings; but this time round the modus operandi has been much more restrained, an opportunity to work in-house.
Familiar surroundsThe example has been set by arguably the richest club in the country, Ukrainian champions and cup holders FC Shakhtar Donetsk, who reconvened at their own Kirsha base for winter training on 15 January; 12 months ago they were in Spain. There were no new faces in their midst either, coach Mircea Lucescu instead looking in-house, promoting 19-year-old Yaroslav Rakitsky from the youth ranks to the first-team squad. "We will not buy any more players as we already have 30," explained Lucescu, who has recalled Nery Alberto Castillo, Ruslan Fomin and Zorya Luhansk from loan. "We also agreed to sell Brandão to Olympique de Marseille, a move that underlines our work at Shakhtar. Leading European clubs are being attracted by some of our players, often offering very good terms."
In fifth at the turn of the year, Shakhtar will need to keep hold of their leading lights if they are to close the 12-point deficit on Premier League pacesetters FC Dynamo Kyiv when the campaign resumes at the end of February. The capital club are already reaping the rewards of their own frugal approach, with Yuri Semin duly rewarded for his decision to give a number of Ukrainian starlets a chance to shine as Artem Milevskiy, Olexandr Aliyev and Stanislav Bogush all blossom. The policy has also helped attract players, with Shakhtar youth product Serhiy Kravchenko arriving from FC Vorskla Poltava during the winter. "Young and experienced alike have equal chances of making the starting XI," said the 25-year-old Ukrainian international Kravchenko. "The atmosphere is really creative [at Dynamo] and competition for places in the lineup is tough."
Dynamo`s nearest rivals FC Metalist Kharkiv have been more active in the transfer market, perhaps with an eye on their UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie with UC Sampdoria. At times hindered by a lack of depth last year, they have brought in Andriy Berezovchuk, Denis Oleynik and Argentinian midfielder Walter Aníbal Acevedo. Yet they too are strengthening their foundations after revealing plans to revive their once famous youth academy, aided by a substantial educational/training complex including nine football pitches which is being built near their Metalist Stadium home. It will be completed some time this year by which time, should they continue their progress, Metalist could be gracing the UEFA Champions League.