Browse all

Saudade Donetsk

Why so many brazilian footballers play for Shakhtar Donetsk?

Saudade Donetsk Why so many brazilian footballers play for Shakhtar Donetsk?

Donetsk is placed in the region of Donbass, in Eastern Ukraine. The city is dominated by some old Soviet Union’s steel factories and it’s cut by the Kalius river. The color that you can see the most is the grey of the reinforced concrete and of the city’s historical buildings, riddled by bullets. From October to April, the average temperatures won’t rise over the 10℃, with lowest that can reach the -15℃. Now, try to imagine to be born on the Brazilian beaches with football, sun, and cocoa milk, and to suddenly find yourselves from Rio de Janeiro to here, in the heart of frozen Ukraine, to play some football.


The colony of Brazilians that since 2002 is populating Shakhtar Donetsk’s orange jerseys has always been one of those anomalies that look like a bug from Matrix. Why some Brazilian youngsters arrive in Europe to play at the borders of football for a Ukrainian club that is nicknamed “The Mineworkers Club”? There’s no clear answer to this question, but there are three characters that allowed Shakhtar to have 25 Brazilians in the club in the last 15 years:

  1. Rinat Akhmetov: the president of the club, the richest man in Ukraine, and the 39th richest man in the world according to Forbes, with an estimated asset of 16 billion dollars. He put the money in the club.
  2. Mircea Lucescu: legendary Romanian coach that also stepped by the Serie A (Pisa, Brescia, Reggiana, Inter). On Shakhtar’s bench from 2004 to 2016, he raised and crafted all the young talents he could. 
  3. Franck Henouda: a French-Brazilian manager that Lucescu knew in Turkey when he was coaching Galatasaray. Henouda was the key man in the best part of the transfers.

This triumvirate created a samba-island in the frost of Ukraine: the indebted Brazilian clubs did not oppose great resistance to the millionaire offerings of Akhmetov, and the players were easily convinced (maybe not with a postcard from Donetsk, but with a lot of money). On the eve of the Champions League match against Roma, we dusted off the best green-gold talent for the Donbass.


#1 Brandao


The first Brazilian man in Ukraine was Brandao, signed in 2002. His biggest credit - besides the 91 goals scored with the orange shirt - was to have been the pioneer of the Brazilian colony.


#2 Matuzalém


During the years, Shakhtar got some unbelievable players at the club: among these, there was a young Franzelinho Matuzalem. What a player he could’ve been.


#3 Fernandinho



Nowadays, he’s one of the best midfielders in Europe, but he owes this to the eight years he spent in Ukraine working with Lucescu. Fernandinho picked up the legacy of another great Brazilian midfielder for Donetsk: Elano. Since 2013, the green-gold legacy of Shakhtar's midfield has been picked up by Fred, who will respect the best tradition of Brazilian filmmakers in Ukraine and will spend £ 50m at the end of the season at Manchester City.


#4 Luiz Adriano


Among the 128 goals that made him Shakhtar’s all-time goalscorer, I always remember this amazing fair play gesture against Nordsjälland.


#5 Willian


During the summer of 2007, the club sold Elano and Matuzalem and got Cristiano Lucarelli from Livorno and two young Brazilians: Ilsinho and Willian. We all know how the story has gone.


#6 Douglas Costa


He has probably been the best Brazilian footballer to ever play in Ukraine. Looking his run on the heavy Ukrainian pitches was just like watching a gazelle running in the steppe.


#7 Alex Texeira

He once refused to come back to Donetsk during the Donbass was, fearing for the heating of the conflict. His selling in 2015 set a club record 50 million deal.


#8 Taison

One of the various copies of Teixeira, Costa, and Willian is Taison, that is currently playing for Shakhtar. Other than having a great dribbling, he also looks like a nice person.


#9 Bernard

In 2013, Shakhtar spent some serious moment to bring the Brazilian from Belo Horizonte to Easter Ukraine’s freeze. This year, he’s proving his value with some stunning performances.


#10 Marlos


The Donbass war has stopped the importation of Brazilian talents in Ukraine. The last signing was Marlos, after a series of luxury transfers that got the club 96 million.