Mykhailo Mudryk: Chelsea signing’s rapid rise to prominence with Shakhtar Donetsk | Football News

At the start of last season, he was unknown outside of Ukraine with a transfer value of under £1 million. He is now one of the most desirable young players in Europe. After an explosive rise, Mikaylo Mudryk looks destined for big things.

The 22-year-old, who showed off his thrilling speed and one-on-one ability in this season’s Champions League group stage, has been described by Shakhtar Donetsk director of football Dario Srna as “the best player in Europe. his position” after Kylian Mbappe and Vinicius Junior.

That statement may have a hint of exaggeration, but Srna isn’t the only one who thinks highly of Mudrik.

His list of buyers is long, but it is Chelsea who have beaten Arsenal to sign him on an eight-and-a-half-year deal.

Shakhtar are adamant about their huge valuation of the player – “if someone wants to buy Mudryka, they have to spend a lot of money and respect our club,” Srna recently added – but is the hype justified?

A change of attitude under De Zerbi

Mudrik was long considered a player with huge potential in Ukraine, where he started out at Metalist Kharkiv’s academy before moving to Dnipro and then Shakhtar, but it took longer than many expected for him to blossom.

Former Shakhtar manager Paulo Fonseca saw his potential when he was in charge, breaking into the first team and making his senior debut at the age of 17 in 2018.

For all Mudrik’s talent, his attitude was questionable.

“He sometimes didn’t hear what the coach was telling him,” Shakhtar captain Taras Stepanenko reflected recently. Meanwhile, Fonseca expressed his concerns after a friendly win over Azerbaijan side Qarabag in January 2019.

“Mihailo scored today, but he still has a lot to learn,” he said. “I’m certainly confident in his talent, but first of all he needs to realize that he still has a lot of ways to improve… he needs to change his attitude on the pitch a little bit.”

Mykhailo Mudrik plays against Real Madrid in the Champions League
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Mudrik is playing against Real Madrid in the Champions League

Mudryk was sent on loan to Ukrainian top league rivals Arsenal Kyiv just a few weeks later. This will be followed by another loan spell, this time at Desna Chernihiv, and Shakhtar will hope that more exposure at the top level will help him mature.

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But that only came after the appointment of Roberto De Zerbi, now of Brighton, in the summer of 2021, at a time when Mudrick was worth less than £1m. Transfermarkt, that his fortunes and even his attitude towards his parent club began to change.

“Everyone knows Mudrik is an amazing talent, but not many coaches can connect with him,” explained Srna, before adding that one of De Zerbi’s first jobs in charge of Shakhtar was answering the phone for the youngster. .

“He told him: ‘You will become a player with me, otherwise you will not be a footballer,'” Srna added in this De Zerbi phone conversation. “From that day on, Mudrik changed things completely.”

De Zerbi made Mudryk a personal project.

“I need not only to win the league and the cup and to play well in the Champions League, but also to bring up the young players,” he said. “Mudrik is one of the best young footballers in Europe. If I don’t take him to a high level, I will consider it a personal defeat.”

Mudrik was one of a number of Shakhtar academy products thrown in by De Zerbi and he clearly repaid his faith, with the winger becoming a regular starter before the pandemic disrupted the 2021/22 season. 2018 campaign, and then broke into Andriy Shevchenko’s national team.

The Champions League breakout is turning heads

Doubts about Mudrik’s attitude quickly disappeared, and soon his abilities came to the fore.

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Indeed, since his breakthrough at the start of last season, he has scored nine goals and provided 13 assists in 23 Ukrainian Premier League games – despite the upheaval caused by Russia’s invasion of the country and the pandemic.

The numbers are impressive, but it is on the European stage that Mudrik has really turned heads.

Shakhtar Donetsk
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Mudrik has shone in the Champions League this season

He was mainly used as a substitute during Shakhtar’s group stage campaign last season, but he certainly stood out on his first start, his eye-catching display in the 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid earning a standing ovation from the home fans. Bernabeu when he was substituted in the second half.

It was a pivotal moment in Mudrik’s promotion and he has continued to rise this season, starting all six of Shakhtar’s group games and scoring three goals and providing two assists, a total bettered by only seven players so far.

Celtic will not remember their meeting with him fondly.

In the first of those in Warsaw in September, Mudrik scored Shakhtar’s equalizer with a powerful diagonal strike, hitting Heorhii Sudakov with a well-timed, explosive shot past Celtic right-back Josip Juranovic. .

Donetsk
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Mudrick scores against Celtic

Then, a month later at Celtic Park, he again made another crucial contribution, grabbing another equaliser, this time with a stunning individual effort from outside the box after a counter-attack saw Andrzej Postecoglou’s side eliminated from the competition.

Mudrik was even better in the 4-1 win over RB Leipzig two games ago, setting up Shakhtar’s shot after shot from the left and outpacing his marker with a series of steps before finishing off a quick counter-attack himself. before providing another assist with a low cross for striker Lassina Traore.

Mudrick’s main strengths were evident in these games – his pace and power, cutting inside from the left to use his stronger right foot; his speed in transition; his clinical finishing ability and ability to do so at the Champions League stage only increased his appeal to a growing list of suitors, including Arsenal.

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Chelsea’s interest explained

Chelsea’s lack of firepower has already seen them secure the loan signing of Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix, who was sent off on his debut against Fulham on Thursday, but Mudric has been the target of rumors since the start of the season.

The Blues are desperate to improve their attacking performances, having scored just 21 goals in 18 Premier League games this season.

Part of Mudrick’s appeal is his ability to play on both flanks. He usually prefers to operate as an inverted winger on the left, but is also happy on the right.

“I’m more comfortable when I play on the line, where I can show my full potential against one,” he said in an interview when asked about his favored position. Times in September.

Mihailo Mudrik talks to current Shakhtar boss Igor Jovicevic
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Mudrik talks to current Shakhtar boss Igor Jovicevic

“I have more space to move forward and I can create a lot more chances when I play on the line. There are more people in the middle. But, you know, the middle is good for me too.

“My inspiration is Cristiano Ronaldo because of what you can do if you work hard and believe in yourself. I like the way Cristiano plays. That’s how I see myself – a winger.”

That’s not to say he might not be comfortable playing in the center one day – “I need more time to change my position from 11 or 7 to 9, but with time it’s possible,” he added. Times – but he is primarily the player who poses the greatest threat from the flanks.

It remains to be seen what happens next, but it seems increasingly likely that Mudryk, despite being little known outside of Ukraine just a year ago, has a tantalizingly bright future ahead of him.

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