Eastern Ukraine is not the most obvious gateway into Europe for the future stars of Brazilian football.

When crossing the Atlantic Ocean, or going the long way round over the Pacific, there are many more obvious entry points that must be flown over and bypassed.

England, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain all come first, no matter which way the crow flies. In terms of climate and culture, other countries would appear to offer a more familiar environment to live and work in, especially around the Mediterranean.

Yet importing South American talent has been one of the key ingredients behind Shakhtar Donetsk’s success since the turn of the century. They have cast aside their past as perennial runners-up to Dynamo Kiev to become the most dominant club in the Ukrainian Premier League, winning 11 of the last 17 titles.

No longer just a provincial powerhouse hailing from the heavily industrialised Donbass region, the Miners – as they are known – have become the darlings of football hipsters and anoraks alike, and tricky customers for European opponents too. In 2009 they won the Uefa Cup and faced Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2011.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 06: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (C) fights for the ball against Razvan Rat (R) and Alex Teixeira of Shakhtar Donetsk during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between Barcelona and Shakhtar Donetsk at the Camp Nou Stadium on April 6, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona wpn 5-1. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Their investment in Brazilian players goes beyond the usual routes of scouting and signing on fees. After taking the strategic decision to start bringing in foreign flair players in order to augment their squad in 2004, with homegrown players trusted to staff the defence and keep the team’s shape, Shakhtar have gone to great lengths to make their growing South American contingent feel at home and keep them occupied. They even built an aviary full of exotic birds and created a fishing lake.

War may have forced the club to flee from the city of Donetsk to seek shelter in western Ukraine, but that didn’t stop them lifting another Premier League title in 2017, and even amid this crisis they remain one of the most well-known sides outside of Europe’s top five leagues – and a team that always have a few players worth looking up.

How well have Shakhtar’s players done after leaving the club? Their 10 biggest sales are listed below and rated for what became of them and their careers away from the Ukrainian giants.


Donetsk, UKRAINE: Csaba Bernath of Debrecen (L) fights for a ball with Elano Blumer (R) of Shakhtar during their first-leg UEFA Cup football match in Donetsk 15 September, 2005. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Position: Attacking midfielder
Transfer fee: £8m (source: BBC Sport)
Destination: Manchester City

Signed by Sven Goran Eriksson during the Thaksin Shinawatra era, Elano became a fan favourite at Manchester City for his silky midfield play and dead-eye excellence from the penalty spot.

After two years in England, the Brazilian left for Galatasaray in 2009 before turning to Brazil a year later and then trying his hand in China as one of the first big name signings to arrive in the Super League.

He retired in 2016 at Santos, the club were it all began.

Hit or miss? Hit

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

Athens, GREECE: Shakhtar Donetsk's Ukrainian midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk (L) fights for the ball with his Olympiakos Pireus counterpart Brazilian Rivaldo during their Champions League group D football game at the Karaiskaki stadium in Piraeus, near Athens, 05 December 2006. AFP PHOTO / Aris Messinis. (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Position: Defensive midfielder
Transfer fee: £10.2m (source: Eurosport)
Destination: Zenit St. Petersburg

Regarded as one of the greatest Ukrainian players of the modern era, Tymoshchuk left Shakhtar for Zenit in 2007 after making 326 appearances for the Miners.

He picked up two league titles in his two spells with the Russian club, either side of a four-year stint with Bayern Munich, with whom he won a historic treble in 2013.

He retired in 2016 as one of the most decorated players his country has produced in decades.

Hit or miss? Hit


VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 18: David Albelda (R) of Valencia tackles Matuzalem of Shakhtar Donetsk during the UEFA Champions League Group D match at the Mestalla stadium on October 18, 2006 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Position: Defensive midfielder
Transfer fee: compensation of £11m for breach of contract (source: Guardian)
Destination: Real Zaragoza

The Brazilian attempted to force a move to Spain in 2007 by effectively ripping up his contract with Shakhtar to walk on the club and agree a deal with Real Zaragoza, a move that ended up in legal tangle, a ban from playing that was later overturned and a demand that the midfielder paid his former team compensation.

His career on the pitch never truly recovered, in spite of a successful spell with Lazio that saw him lift the Coppa Italia. He became something of a journeyman who now plays for Serie D outfit Monterosi FC at the age of 38.

Hit or miss? Miss

Douglas Costa

Czech defender Milan Petrzela of FC Viktoria Plzen (L) vies for the ball with Brazilian forward Douglas Costa de Souza of FC Shakhtar Donetsk during the round of 32 UEFA Europa League football match Shakhtar Donetsk vs Plzen on February 27, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Position: Winger
Transfer fee: £21m (source: BBC Sport)
Destination: Bayern Munich

Now at Juventus, Costa was brought in to help Pep Guardiola break down teams through his skill and trickery down the wings.

He thrived with Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga winning two titles and the DFB-Pokal cup but lost his place in the team following Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival at the Allianz Arena, and was loaned to the Italian champions in 2017 where he impressed with a string of impressive displays.

Hit or miss? Hit

Dmytro Chygrynskiy

Donetsk, UKRAINE: David Silva (L) of Valencia fights for a ball with Dmytro Chygrynskiy (R) of Shakhtar during football match of UEFA Champion's League, Group D, in Donetsk 31 October, 2006. AFP PHOTO/ Alexander KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Position: Centre-back
Transfer fee: £22m (source: BBC Sport)
Destination: Barcelona

A tall, strong and skilful ball-playing centre-back, the Ukrainian was personally picked out by Guardiola who wanted to bring him to Barcelona as a successor to Carles Puyol.

He proved to be an expensive error for the Catalan and wilted under the pressure of playing for the Spanish giants. After only one season in La Liga he was sold back to Shakhtar in 2010 to spend four more seasons in Donetsk before joining regional rivals Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in 2014.

In 2016 he joined Greek side AEK Athens and while he may have enjoyed a solid career since leaving for Barcelona, he has never come close to realising the potential he was supposed to possess.

Hit or miss? Miss

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Shakhtar Donetsk's Henrik Mkhitaryan challenges APOEL's Marcinho (L) during their UEFA Champions League group G football match at the GSP Stadium in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on December 6, 2011. AFP PHOTO / TALAR KALAJIAN (Photo credit should read TALAR KALAJIAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Position: Attacking midfielder
Transfer fee: £24.4m (source: BBC Sport)
Destination: Borussia Dortmund

The Armenian was regarded as one of the most exciting and creative talents in Europe during his time in Donetsk, and was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool before Jurgen Klopp came calling with Borussia Dortmund.

He joined Manchester United in 2016 and won the EFL Cup and Europa League in his first season under Jose Mourinho.

He was then sold to Arsenal in January 2018, bagging a hat-trick of assists on his home debut for the club, but has struggled form form and fitness during his spell in north London.

Hit or miss? Hit


FC Shakhtar's Willian (R) vies for the ball with Juventus' Arturo Vidal during the UEFA Champions League, Group E, football match between FC Shakhtar and Juventus, in Donetsk on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Position: Winger
Transfer fee: £30m (source: BBC Sport)
Destination: Anzhi Makhachkala

A two-time Premier League winner with Chelsea, Willian joined the Blues in 2013 and quickly became an asset to Jose Mourinho as a hard-working winger following a short spell with Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala.

Far from a guaranteed starter under Antonio Conte, though increasingly seen as a star in his own right, the Brazilian has proven his quality since the turn of the year.

Dividing opinions amongst the Stamford Bridge faithful, he has been one of the more consistent players during a turbulent few months for the club and has continued to feature regularly under Maurizio Sarri – but is far from Mr. Popular in west London.

Hit or miss? Hit


FC Shakhtar Donetsk's Brazilian Fernandinho looks dejected at the end of their UEFA Champions League Group C football match against Sporting Lisbon at Alvalade Stadium on November 4, 2008 in Lisbon. Sporting won 1-0. AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Position: Defensive midfielder

Transfer fee: £30m (source: BBC Sport)

Destination: Manchester City

Signed by Manchester City to cover for Yaya Toure’s match-winning runs from midfield, Fernandinho has proven himself to be an asset for the club, providing the on-field balance to win their second Premier League title in 2014 and the League Cup on three occasions.

A hard-working all-rounder, he was one of the first names on the team sheet in the holding role for Manuel Pellegrini and established himself as a key member of Guardiola’s side. City will have a hard time replacing him.

Hit or miss? Hit

Alex Teixeira

TURIN, ITALY - OCTOBER 02: Alex Teixeira of Shakhtar Donetsk celebrates scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Juventus FC and Shakhtar Donetsk at Juventus Arena on October 2, 2012 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Position: Forward
Transfer fee: £38.4m (source: BBC Sport)
Destination: Jiangsu Suning

Another Shakhtar attacker linked with Liverpool after scoring 26 goals in 25 games in his final season in Ukraine, Teixeira opted to move to China rather than the Premier League and signed for Jiangsu Suning in 2016.

So far, his returns in the Super League have been modest for a striker with his track record in Europe.

Hit or miss? Miss


Position: Midfielder
Transfer fee: £43.7m (source: Guardian)
Destination: Manchester United

Another Shakhtar star that left the club this summer is Brazilian midfielder Fred. The player was the only major signing by Manchester United in the summer, catching the eye with Shakhtar making over 150 appearances and scoring 14 goals.

However, he has failed to make a name for himself under both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since his move.

Hit or miss? As it stands, Fred must go down as a miss – but time is still on the midfielder’s side.

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