Opinion: Bernard joins the Brazilian boys club at Shakhtar Donetsk
Upon moving to the Ukraine, Bernard has become Shakhtar Donetsk’s fourth Brazilian signing of this transfer window, and one of 15 Brazilian players currently on their books.
The highly-rated forward cost Shakhtar £21.5m, as they fought off competition for his signature from Arsenal, Porto, Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund, and Liverpool.
He joins a long line of players from Brazil to join the club, and is one of the more expensive signings in the history of Shakhtar’s Brazilian project.
The first to arrive was centre-forward Brandão, who joined from the relatively unknown Paraná based team, Iraty Sport Club.
Brandão spent around seven years at the club, and is currently fourth on their all time top goalscorer list, behind Soviet icons Mykhaylo Sokolovsky, Vitaliy Starukhin, and former Ukraine international Andriy Vorobey in first.
Just behind Brandão on this list is another Brazilian Luiz Adriano, who arrived from Internacional in 2007 and still plays for the club. He has recently taken up Ukranian citizenship, and has mooted the possibility of playing for the national team should the opportunity arise.
"I love Ukraine very much. The whole world learned about me when I started playing here. I’m very grateful to this country, and I consider it to be my second home," said Adriano.
"I’m even ready to replace my passport if I’m called up to Ukraine’s national team. I think that I could strengthen the team."
The success of Shakhtar’s Brazilian players has led to numerous trophies for the club under the leadership of Romanian manager Mircea Lucescu, who has even taken up the Portuguese language in order to help these players feel at home.
Since Luscescu’s arrival in 2004, the club have only missed out on the Ukranian Premier League twice, and have become a regular force in Europe along the way. They won the UEFA Cup in 2009 thanks to goals from the aforementioned Luiz Adriano, as well as Brazilian attacking midfielder Jadson, who is now at São Paulo.
In the current transfer window Shakhtar sold one of their finest Brazilian imports, Fernandinho, to Manchester City for a princely sum of £30m. The midfielder joined Shakhtar for £7m from Altlético Paranaense back in 2005, and endeared himself to the team’s fans with his professionalism and consistent performances.
He learned to speak the local language while in Donetsk, and was so highly regarded that he was made vice-captain during his last few years. Fernandinho’s departure has led to a replenishment of the club’s Brazilian stock, and then some.
In addition to Bernard, the club have signed attacking midfielder Fred from Internacional, Wellington Nem from Flumnense, and recently-capped defensive midfielder Fernando from Grêmio. All four players are 21 or younger, and regular Seleção call-ups are predicted for each player in the future.
Taison, Alex Teixeira, Douglas Costa, Ismaily, Maicon, and Ilsinho make up the rest of the Brazilian contingent, with three other Brazilian players currently out on loan.
Shakhtar’s Brazilian project is an exciting success story which combines a stereotypical mixture of Brazilian flair and Ukranian steel. The Ukranian Premier League’s foreign player limits can be an obstacle for some clubs, but Shaktar’s billionaire owner Rinat Akhmetov seems to have found the perfect balance.
It is a system from which the club’s owner, manager, and players can all reap the benefits. But most importantly it’s one which football fans around the world can enjoy, as they marvel at the Brazilian surprises that Shakhtar have in store for the upcoming season.