Six players from Shakhtar Donetsk refused to return to Ukraine for the club’s new season as fighting continues in Donetsk, which is currently in the control of a pro-Russian rebel uprising. Brazilians Douglas Costa, Fred, Dentinho, Alex Teixiera and Ismaily plus Argentine striker Facundo Ferreyra remained in France following a friendly against Lyon on Saturday.
In a statement posted on the Ukrainian club’s Web site, President Rinat Akhmetov warned the players that they would “suffer” if they did not return: “It is true, six team players have not come,” he stated. “I don’t rule out that these players will return to the team quickly, and some of them tomorrow. Players have contracts that they have to abide by. If they do not come, I think, they will be the first to suffer. Each of them has a minimum release clause, which is tens of millions of euros. If someone wants to reduce this amount by a million, then such a decision is our right. There won’t be a clearance sale.”
Meanwhile, Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu blamed the UK-based agent Kia Joorabchian for persuading the players not to return. “It is necessary to explain what happened,” the coach told the Shakhtar Web site. “It is not the players’ desire, it’s their agents’ work. A few hours before the kickoff of the match against Lyonnais, Kia showed up. And after the game, at 2:00 in the morning, he took our players away. The very talented ones: Teixeira, Douglas, Fred. The rest are not so important.”
He added: “[Joorabchian] wanted to do the same to Adriano, Ilsinho, Marlos and Taison. But they refused. His goal is to make the players free agents, just to make money. This is wrong. This is his alibi. He wants to make use of the situation in the country and get the players for free. But they have contracts.”
Shakhtar is currently unable to play in Donetsk due to the fighting, but the Ukrainian soccer federation has yet to rule where it will play home games while the conflict continues.