He and several teammates have refused to return to Ukraine. They are frightened by the situation out there, violent riots and political unrest. Brazilian World Cup winger Bernard moved to Ukraine last summer after Tottenham had chased his signature and he also now wants to leave for his own safety.
“I like the club, the people, the city, but I’m afraid. We want to stay at the club but we must have risk-free working conditions.”
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down and tragically caused nearly 300 fatalities. Its understandable the 23-year-old is apprehensive about returning. But he is not the only one, five of his teammates are also refusing to return, Fred, Dentinho, Alex Teixiera, Ismaily and Argentine striker Facundo Ferreyra are all in France.
McCarthy, Friedel, Eto'o, Valbuena, Falqué
Tour is important to build a Spurs fan base
Antoine Griezmann to Spurs
Alex Pritchard Q&A
Should Spurs move for Richards
Give Pochettino a chance for gawds sake
Cristian Ceballos catches they eye
Owner Rinat Akhmetov appears to have little regard for their feelings, issuing a threat before addressing what he appears to sees as a non-existent safety issue.
“It is true, six team players have not come. I don’t rule out that these players will return to the team quickly, and some of them tomorrow. Players have contracts that they have to abide by. If they do not come, I think, they will be the first to suffer. Each of them has a minimum release clause, which is tens of millions of euros. If someone wants to reduce this amount by a million, then such a decision is our right. There won’t be a clearance sale.
“Hopefully, the mind and heart will prevail over misunderstanding, and the players will not follow temptation and fear. Especially since there is nothing to fear. We are ready to provide security. We will not take risks and in any case we won’t bring players to dangerous places.”
Shakhtar’s Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu has blamed British-based agent Kia Joorabchian and seems as heartless as the owner. But then if you are one of the players he dismisses as not being important why would you want to rush back, indeed why would you want to go back at all with a civil war going on?
“It is necessary to explain what happened. It is not the players’ desire, it’s their agents’ work. A few hours before the kickoff of the match against Lyonnais, Kia showed up. And after the game, at two in the morning, he took our players away. The very talented ones: Teixeira, Douglas, Fred. The rest are not so important.
“He wanted to do the same to Adriano, Ilsinho, Marlos and Taison. But they refused. His goal is to make the players free agents, just to make money. This is wrong. This is his alibi. He wants to make use of the situation in the country and get the players for free. But they have contracts. Ferreyra has another agent. But he also expects to capitalise on the situation.”
So while the Ukrainian military is attempting to retake the city of Donetsk the owner wants to use the players as pawns. They are waiting to hear where the Ukrainian Football Federation will determine they can play their games but the owner expects to use the players, who have nothing to d with the conflict and are nor Ukrainians to try to bring peace.
“We want to play in Donetsk very much, but, unfortunately, at the moment we cannot do it. We will play where we will be allowed to: we would like to do it in Kharkiv. The decision regarding the championship is taken by the Ukrainian Football Federation. Through our game, we will call for peace and try to bring joy to our fans.”
And what is that fails? What if one of them gets injured, taken hostage, or used as a pawn in the fight?
Why would a football player want to go to a war zone to play a game of league football?