On the finish of the chic, cinematically good 2008/09 season, Barcelona stood aside from their rivals. LaLiga champions, Copa del Rey winners and Champions League conquerors, this was a group not typically seen in soccer, no matter time or place. Exhibiting an irrefutable mix of aptitude, craft and spirit, Barcelona had reached their Promised Land, they usually had achieved it beneath the thrilling imaginative and prescient of certainly one of their favorite sons, Pep Guardiola.
Sure, such was the magisterial, expectation-shattering nature of Guardiola’s debut season on the Camp Nou that he was virtually given free rein to assault the switch market in any approach he noticed match. Because it have been, match turned out to be Zlatan Ibrahimović, the membership’s £59m current to Guardiola for deposing Actual Madrid because the kings of Spain and Manchester United because the kings of Europe.
What happened subsequent wants no retelling. Ibrahimović and Guardiola’s notoriously uneasy relationship led to the Swedish striker’s exit from Catalonia simply 12 months later, when he was loaned to AC Milan. Ibrahimović’s troubles and eventual departure from Barcelona sparked a degree of debate and intrigue which made the equally curious story of Dmytro Chygrynskiy’s exit appear to be a humorous little footnote.
Chygrynskiy was Guardiola’s different switch mishap that summer time. He was the gangling Ukrainian centre-half who arrived at Barcelona for the tidy payment of £20m throughout the identical summer time that noticed Ibrahimović unveiled to greater than 55,000 followers. However there was decidedly much less fanfare for this long-haired, accentuated determine who arrived on the world’s greatest membership with no scarcity of hope and mystique, however left somewhat ignominiously, condemned to be an inclusion on ‘worst transfer’ lists for years to come.
However maybe Chygrynskiy deserves greater than that. He was removed from an incredible defender, however he was additionally the sufferer of circumstance. Chygrynskiy, towards Guardiola’s needs, was bought again to Shakhtar Donetsk for £15m having amassed solely 851 minutes of enjoying time at Barcelona. Though Guardiola noticed in Chygrynskiy a substantial amount of promise, the membership’s president, Sandro Rosell, was unmoved by the Ukrainian and demanded his sale to alleviate the financial plight gripping the membership on the time.
Returning to his native nation together with his fame as an rising defender besmirched, we have been left to marvel how his profession may need panned out had Guardiola been afforded the time to work intently with the participant. As an alternative, we’re left with a Barcelona profession that by no means was, and a profession that by no means fairly returned to being the identical.
Chygrynskiy, a person with an enviable mane of hair and a surname loaded with typo potential for even probably the most adroit match reporter, established himself as an rising expertise at Shakhtar earlier than he had reached his 20s. After making his debut aged 17, he launched into a productive mortgage spell at Metalurh Zaporizhzhya, which helped hone his nascent talent set into one thing worthy of Shakhtar’s first-team.
Chygrynskiy had been thrown into the warmth of battle at Shakhtar and – understandably – he discovered it robust going. His senior debut got here within the Champions League, towards Barcelona no much less, in 2005 and following that recreation he admitted to feeling the nerves. Shakhtar supervisor Mircea Lucescu conceded that Chygrynskiy’s time was nigh, however each events would have to train endurance earlier than the teenager developed. The mortgage transfer to Metalurh was the best transfer on the time, and it paid off.
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Through the 2006/07 season, Chygrynskiy cemented his place on the coronary heart of the defence in Lucescu’s aspect that additionally contained Fernandinho, Darijo Srna and Elano. Though Shakhtar couldn’t win the title that yr, Chygrynskiy captained his workforce to the cup last, a 2-1 defeat to Dynamo Kyiv.
Following a string of spectacular performances, Chygrynskiy’s identify started popping up on European scouting studies extra incessantly. Through the 2007/08 marketing campaign, his affect continued to develop as Shakhtar gained a league and cup double, the centre-back experiencing a candy redemption with a cup ultimate win over Dynamo, during which he was named man of the match.
In a Shakhtar group brimming with thrilling Brazilian expertise, Chygrynskiy continued to exude a way of authority and reliability on the again, and duly continued to appeal to admiring glances from potential suitors. He rebuffed gives from round Europe to proceed with Shakhtar for the 2008/09 season, recognising that it was not but time to flip his again on common beginning soccer underneath Lucescu.
In his remaining season, Chygrynskiy helped Shakhtar to what was nonetheless the UEFA Cup, beating Werder Bremen within the remaining. Nevertheless, it was in that competitors’s illustrious massive brother, the Champions League, that Chygrynskiy captured the attentions of his future employers at Barça. Shakhtar completed third of their Champions League group, behind Barcelona and Sporting CP, however Chygrynskiy impressed throughout each video games towards Guardiola’s males.
Within the last group recreation, at Camp Nou, Barça fielded a weakened aspect having already been assured of progress to the last-16, as Shakhtar chased third spot and a berth within the UEFA Cup’s latter rounds. Chygrynskiy opportunistically handled the sport as an audition. At that time, he was conscious of elevated curiosity in him and knew that a robust efficiency towards a aspect of Barça’s clout would go a great distance.
It did simply that. Shakhtar gained the sport Three-2 however Chygrynskiy left an indelible impression on Guardiola, who earmarked the younger defender as a major switch goal for that summer time. Guardiola instructed Barcelona’s sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, that he needed back-up for Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol in defence, so the chief proceeded within the vital trend and commenced laying the groundwork for the switch.
Chygrynskiy performed towards Barcelona within the 2009 European Tremendous Cup, which was gained by Pedro’s strike deep into extra-time, however that was to be his send-off. The 22-year-old’s switch to the newly-crowned champions of Europe was agreed prematurely of the match however, to permit Chygrynskiy one final match – or so he thought – in Shakhtar colors, it might not be finalised till after the sport.
Having been given the suitable Shakhtar swansong, Chygrynskiy’s switch to Barcelona was introduced. Guardiola had obtained his man. Contemplating the season the Blaugrana had simply accomplished, they might have been entitled to pursue any defender, however their visionary chief had reaffirmed his want to land Chygrynskiy.
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On the time it appeared as if the switch was an amazing piece of enterprise. An ageing Rafael Márquez was susceptible to accidents, making the centre of defence an space a lot in want of strengthening for Guardiola’s slick, all-conquering machine. Chygrynskiy appeared to match Guardiola’s necessities, too; astute, technically sound and cozy with the ball at his ft, the prospect of the pair working collectively appeared like it might bear fruit within the years to come. Nevertheless, soccer is never that freed from problems.
With hair extending under his shoulders and a slender body, Barcelona followers would have been forgiven for considering that they had signed the chief singer in a Grand Funk Railroad tribute band, not the costliest defender within the membership’s historical past.
A colossus of a defender with socks hanging down round his calves and a Grasp’s diploma in Mental Property, Chygrynskiy was an intriguing prospect for these unacquainted together with his exploits up till that time. Guardiola wasn’t eager about his proclivity for liberal arts, although. The coach had as an alternative studied the defender’s capability to deliver the ball out of defence, his positional consciousness and a easy, unhurried fashion that was straightforward on the attention.
With Piqué and Puyol firmly established because the membership’s first-choice defensive partnership, Chygrynskiy was a great distance off usurping both of them when he arrived, however the concept was for him to progress steadily beneath Guardiola’s tutelage. He was ineligible for Barça’s Champions League defence, however that didn’t fear Guardiola as Chygrynskiy was a long-term prospect. He was not anticipating the Ukraine worldwide to explode onto the scene however to adapt to a brand new tradition and means of enjoying with the last word aim of being a long-term successor to Puyol.
Chygrynskiy has been rumoured as a lover of jazz and, though his play at Barcelona failed to mirror the tones of Miles Davis’s Sort of Blue, his debut was encouraging, enjoying the complete 90 minutes in a 2-Zero victory away at Getafe. Following the match, Chygrynskiy provided an upbeat evaluation on his first expertise rubbing shoulders with the likes of Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta: “I want to thank my teammates and coaches because they gave me confidence, which is very important for a player – I am very pleased.”
In that very same interview, Chygrynskiy revealed a glimpse into one of many many issues he would encounter throughout his time at Barça – the language barrier: “Everyone speaks Spanish, and I expect that I will be able to learn it. It is difficult now, but it is a question of time. For now, Piqué and Yaya Touré speak to me in English, but I want to learn Spanish.”
In fact, it wasn’t a lot the spoken phrase that tripped Chygrynskiy up because it was Barcelona’s soccer language, the best way the gamers communicated Guardiola’s beliefs and imaginative and prescient to the remainder of the world. The sleight of foot, the intricate triangular passing, the exact one-twos – they have been sides of Barça’s almighty footballing symphony Chygrynskiy discovered unintelligible.
Guardiola continued to work behind the scenes with Chygrynskiy. He afforded him valuable few begins, which was not aided by niggling accidents, and whereas that was not sufficient to shatter the participant’s confidence, the cruel whistles from his personal supporters have been. They arrived, like a cacophonous wave of daggers to the guts, throughout Barcelona’s 2-1 defeat to Sevilla within the Copa del Rey.
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With the rating locked at 1-1, Chygrynskiy was caught out of place as Diego Capel raced previous him. With the Sevilla attacker bearing down on aim, Chygrynskiy hauled him down in knowledgeable foul, conceding a penalty, from which Álvaro Negredo transformed. That sequence of occasions got here because the nadir of a torrid night for the out-of-sorts defender, who had misplaced passes and missed tackles on a number of events. In consequence, the house supporters contained in the Camp Nou expressed their frustrations in no unsure phrases, filling the world with whistles in the direction of their very own struggling participant.
Chygrynskiy’s head dropped because it seemed as if the bottom was about to swallow him up. Guardiola got here out in defence of him following the sport, saying: “Dima is a fantastic player and the more he gets whistled the more support we will give him because he has many years ahead of him here. It will cost him more than others (to settle in) because of where he has come from and the price we paid but if anyone is responsible it’s me not him.”
Guardiola was as soon as once more plain in his evaluation of the “fantastic” Chygrynskiy, however the participant’s personal feedback reflecting on his troubles at Barcelona painted a unique image completely: “When I signed for Barça I didn’t think I was going to play without any problems immediately, but nor did I know it was going to be so hard. Here there’s more pressure from people and from the media and the style of play is also very different to Ukraine. One thing is desire, another is reality.”
He didn’t assume enjoying for Barcelona can be so arduous. That’s, maybe, a revealing nugget of self-assessment. Not treating a transfer to Barcelona because the mightiest problem he’d ever confronted was a deadly flaw from the outset, and he’d considerably sheltered himself from dealing with up to the truth, as he put it. That’s definitely not to accuse Chygrynskiy of complacency or a scarcity of professionalism, however such insights into his mentality depart us with an inescapable conclusion that he was unprepared for the extreme rigours of elite soccer.
Guardiola just isn’t wired that approach. He noticed, someplace past the lumbering performances, a superb participant in there. Sadly, he was by no means going to be given the prospect to flip it round. A couple of months later, Chygrynskiy was gone, bought again to Shakhtar. Guardiola was lower than thrilled however Sandro Rosell, the president who succeeded Joan Laporta, insisted that promoting Chygrynskiy was important to increase the membership’s funds. Contemplating Chygrynskiy’s fractious relationship with the followers, Rosell knew there wouldn’t be many tears shed over the participant’s departure.
And that was that. Chygrynskiy returned to Ukraine however by no means re-established himself fairly in the identical method as his pre-Barça pomp. In the meanwhile, he might be discovered at AEK Athens, and though he’s solely 31, the probabilities of him reappearing at a degree equating to Barcelona appear slim at greatest.
Typically a big-money transfer to a dream membership merely doesn’t work out, be it down to a scarcity of type, persistent damage woes or a way of overwhelming sense of expectation. In fact, it’s additionally necessary to keep in mind that not each participant is Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Swede is blessed with a unprecedented work-rate and want to stay on the prime. He didn’t permit his disappointing spell at Barcelona hamper his stardom, however a unique character, like Chygrynskiy’s, will react in a different way.
It’s just one in an infinite record of reminders of how cut-throat this recreation is on the highest degree.
By Matt Gault @MattGault11