Mykhailo Modric: Chelsea’s rapid rise to prominence with Shakhtar Donetsk | football news

At the start of last season, he was unknown outside Ukraine with a transfer value of less than £1m. Now he is one of the most sought-after young players in Europe. After a massive rise, Mykhailo Modric looks destined for big things.

Shakhtar Donetsk director of football Darigo Srna has described the 22-year-old, who showed his sensational pace and individual ability in the Champions League group stage earlier this season, as “the best player in Europe in his position” after Kylian Mbappe and Vinicius. junior.

There might be a hint of exaggeration in this statement but Srna isn’t the only one giving Mudryk the high status.

The list of suitors is long but it was Chelsea who took the lead over Arsenal to sign him on an eight-and-a-half-year deal.

Shakhtar were adamant about guaranteeing their hefty valuation of the player – “If someone wants to buy Modric, they have to spend a lot of money and respect our club,” Srina added recently – but is the fuss justified?

The situation shifted under De Zerby

Modric has long been seen as a player with huge potential in Ukraine, starting out at the Metalist Kharkiv academy before moving on to Dnipro and then Shakhtar, but it has taken him longer than many expected for him to start thriving.

Former Shakhtar manager Paulo Fonseca saw his potential during his time in charge, bringing him into the first-team fold and giving him his debut at the age of 17 in 2018.

Despite Modric’s talent, his attitude raised doubts.

“Sometimes he didn’t hear what the coach told him,” Shakhtar captain Taras Stepanenko said recently. Meanwhile, Fonseca voiced his own concerns after a friendly win over Azerbaijan’s Qarabagh in January 2019.

“Mikhailo scored today, but he still has a lot to learn,” he said. “I am certainly convinced of his talent, but first of all, he must understand that he still has a lot of ways in which he can improve…he has to change his attitude a little bit on the pitch.”

Mykhailo Modric against Real Madrid in the Champions League
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Modric against Real Madrid in the Champions League

Modric was sent out on loan to Ukrainian Premier League rivals Arsenal Kyiv just a few weeks later. Another loan spell, this time at Desna Chernihiv, would follow, with Shakhtar hoping to build up exposure at a higher level that would help him mature.

But it wasn’t until Roberto De Zerby, now at Brighton, was appointed in the summer of 2021, at a time when Modric was valued at less than £1m. transfer market, That his fortunes – and certainly his attitude – are beginning to change again at his parent club.

“Everyone knows Modric is an amazing talent, but not many coaches can find a relationship with him,” Srina explained, before adding that one of De Zerby’s first acts in charge of Shakhtar was to pick up the phone for the loaned youngster. .

“He told him: You will become a player with me, otherwise you will not be a footballer,” Srina added about De Zerbi’s phone call. “Since that day, Modric has completely changed things.”

De Zerbi made Mudryk a personal project.

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

Mudryk was one of many Shakhtar academy products that De Zerbi threw into the squad and his faith has emphatically rewarded, with the winger becoming a regular starter ahead of the pandemic-disrupted 2021/22 campaign, and then breaking into Andriy Shevchenko’s national team.

The outbreak of the European Champions League draws attention

Doubts about Modric’s position soon disappeared and his ability soon came to the fore.

Indeed, since his breakthrough start to last season, he has scored nine goals and provided 13 assists in 23 Ukrainian Premier League matches – and that’s despite disruptions from the Russian invasion of the country as well as the pandemic.

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

Shakhtar Donetsk
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Modric shone in the Champions League this season

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

It was a significant moment in Modric’s rise to prominence and this season he has continued to grow in stature, starting all six of Shakhtar’s group matches and contributing three goals and two assists, a total bettered by only seven players in the competition so far.

Celtic will not remember their meetings with him fondly.

In the first of these, played in Warsaw in September, Modric scored Shakhtar’s equalizer with a powerful, slashing finish after tapping into Heorhii Sudakov’s through ball with a well-timed and extremely quick run past Celtic’s right-back Josip Juranović. .

Mykhailo Modric of Shakhtar Donetsk scores against Celtic
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Modric scores against Celtic

Then, at Celtic Park a month later, he again made a decisive contribution, scoring another goal, this time with a stunning individual effort from outside the penalty area after a counter-attack as Ange Postecoglou’s side fell out of contention.

Mudryk was even better in the 4-1 win over RB Leipzig that came before those two games, setting up Shakhtar’s opening goal after darting in from the left and beating his marker with a series of sweeps, then himself finishing off a quick counter-attack. before providing another pass with a low cross for striker Lacina Traore.

Mudryk’s main strengths were clearly visible in those games – his speed and power when cutting on the inside from the left to use his stronger right foot; its speed of transformation; His ability to finish clinically – and his ability to do so on the Champions League stage has only added to his appeal to a growing list of suitors including Arsenal.

He explained Chelsea’s interest

Chelsea’s lack of firepower secured a loan deal for Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix, who was sent off on his debut against Fulham on Thursday, but Modric has been rumored to be out since the start of the spell.

The Blues are in desperate need of improving their attacking abilities after scoring just 21 goals in 18 Premier League games this season.

Part of Mudryk’s appeal is his ability to play on either wing. He generally prefers to operate as an inverted winger on the left side, but is also happy on the right side.

When asked about his favorite position in an interview with times in September.

Mykhailo Modric in conversation with current Shakhtar president Igor Jovecevic
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Modric in conversation with current Shakhtar president Igor Jovecevic

“I have more space to move up front and can create a lot of chances when I play on the line. There are more people in the middle. But, you know, the middle is also right for me.

“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. I see myself like this – a winger.”

That’s not to say he might not one day be comfortable playing central as well – “I need more time to change my position from 11 or 7 to 9, but with time, it’s possible,” he added. times – But above all, he is the player who bears the greatest threat from the wings.

It remains to be seen what happens next, but it seems increasingly likely that Mudryk, though an unknown figure outside of Ukraine just a year ago, has a tantalizingly bright future ahead of him.

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