Rinat Akhmetov: These days, Shakhtar has been strongest in its entire history

In an exclusive interview to Velykyi Futbol TV programme, the president of FC Shakhtar was talking about the team’s plans, about Mircea Lucescu and the Donbas Arena. Rinat Akhmetov paid particular attention to the situation in Donbas.

About Mircea Lucescu’s milestone birthday

- We gathered with our family of the football club Shakhtar. But I imagined this celebration a bit differently. I wanted this celebration to take place at the Donbas Arena, where 50,000 fans will tell him thank you. There are many thing to thank him for. I do not want to list all those trophies, but every trophy means a huge work. And in every trophy, in every victory he put his heart and soul. He is a great professional and has done a lot for our club. And he inscribed his name in golden letters in the history of Shakhtar.

That’s why I told him thank you so much. Thank you, Mister, for the trophies, for the respect, for the fact that we are respected in Europe. Thank you for the style of play that we demonstrate!

About Mister’s contract

- I keep reading in the press about Mircea’s departure. This way they just escalated the situation. I told Mister that he has the right to choose: another year of contract, or leaving Shakhtar - and I promised to treat his choice, in any case, with respect, I just asked him to let me know his decision well in advance. He said: ‘President, I'm not going anywhere. Do not read the press or listen to that gossip. I'm not going anywhere. I am staying at Shakhtar. Today, Shakhtar is in a very difficult situation, and I cannot leave the team from the moral point of view.’  It was his decision, the one he passed through his heart. And I want to tell you that he will be proud of this decision, and not ashamed of it, I am fully convinced of this. The financial aspect is not crucial at all! He took the decision with his heart. When you decide with your head, you'll look at its financial side, ponder about it and weigh everything... But when you do it with your heart – that’s long-term. He took for himself long-term decision to stay at Shakhtar in this difficult, tough time. And I'm grateful to him for that.

About the team’s objectives

This season, we have already won the Super Cup. Now remain the league title, the Cup, and, most importantly, we need to make it to the Champions League group stage and demonstrate some bright, spectacular and meaningful game. I believe that today's Shakhtar is the strongest Shakhtar in its entire history. It’s very bad that we haven’t become the champions. I do not want to say now that there are good reasons for that. We want to win, we want to win. Despite the fact that we will play in tough and unequal conditions, we still want to win. And we will set a goal of winning the league title. The second spot is a defeat for us.

About the league

- We are in unequal conditions. Ihor Mykhailovych Surkis said that this championship and the previous one, which took place some 3-4 years ago, are no different from each other. I don’t agree to that, they differ very much. It’s a completely different championship. If we played at the Donbas Arena today, I can tell you: the visiting club in the Ukrainian league would be happy if they conceded three goals. At the Donbas Arena, in front of the crowded stands, we have that kind of support ...

About Dynamo’s league title

- I congratulated Ihor Mykhailovych Surkis with winning the league title. Since he is not to blame for the fact that Shakhtar play their games away. He is not to blame for the fact that Shakhtar is at a disadvantage. I want to pay him a compliment, because, you know, for 5 years Shakhtar have dominated, for 5 years they have beaten Dynamo Kyiv both away, at home, in the cup competitions, and everywhere ... And he does not lose heart, no matter how hard it is. He did not give up for all those years, he fought, he struggled, he bought players, he changed coaches. He still set the most ambitious goals for the club. That’s all this that deserves great respect. I have always admired it and paid him compliments, because the competition between us benefited the league in general and, of course, the fans. Therefore, he did well.

About transfers

- We have sold the players worth 46 million euros. While the quality of our game has just improved. This suggests that we are always looking to the future. I’ve been letting players go for a long while. We sold, for example, Willian, Mkhitaryan, Fernandinho, Costa. Shakhtar is not a golden cage. Many Brazilian players have long realized that to get to a great club, you need to come to Shakhtar, give your all to this team, and thus help Shakhtar and help yourself in terms of the future club. The experience they were gaining at Shakhtar must be helping them in Europe. No, we will not reinforce the squad. It seems to me that we are very strongly manned. I believe that today we have the strongest Shakhtar in its entire history.

About Ihor Kolomoyskyi

- We have met. I congratulated him, because the football club Dnipro has still made a major breakthrough. Playing in the Europa League final is a huge success. I want to note that this success involved the Academy of Shakhtar Donetsk represented by Seleznyov and Fedetskyi. These are our Academy graduates. They helped the team reach the finals and counteract Seville in the final. And I think that playing style wise, these players are very helpful to Dnipro. It's hard to take a thermometer to measure up how much Ihor Valer’yevich is charged with the idea of ​​football, but I want to say that he has done a lot for the football club Dnipro and its fans. I think the fans should be grateful to him. And the Ukrainian football fans. Because, after all, the football club Dnipro shows spectacular, bright and meaningful game. What does it mean falls short or doesn’t fall short? That’s a strong team, having gathered some strong players. Still, for all these years Kolomoyskyi has been investing huge amounts of money in it, and reaching the Europa League final ... Let someone else do it. That’s very difficult.

And as regards calling him and giving him a piece of advice - what I would advise him ... He's the kind of individual who is looking for the catch in every word, so he will do the opposite. If I tell him: you should spend more - he will spend less. If I tell him to spend less - he will spend more.

If you compare what Kolomoyskyi did for Ukrainian football, and what Pavelko did for Ukrainian football, there is nothing to compare: Kolomoyskyi did much more. It cannot even be compared. But I would vote for any neutral figure. But not for Kolomoyskyi. Because the club owner and the president of the federation in one person implies a clash of interests. Therefore, when the owner of a club is going to head the football federation, I have always been and will be a big opponent in this regard.

About Oleksandr Yaroslavskyi

- Yaroslavskyi largely copied Shakhtar Donetsk and even adopted the playing style of the team. He studied how our management work, which markets we are looking at. And he has done a lot, of course, both for Kharkiv-based Metalist and for Ukrainian football. And the fact that today Metalist is not experiencing the best of times is very bad. If he returns to the Ukrainian football some time - it will be great. But if he can get back - only to Metalist Kharkiv.

About Andriy Pavelko

- For today, he is the president of the national federation. And his actions should speak of him in this respect. The Ukrainian football should benefit from electing him. If the Ukrainian football benefits from it – so, the election was good. But if it doesn’t benefit – so, it was bad. For the moment, it is difficult to evaluate him. If there is something to criticize him for, I will definitely do it. People entrusted Pavelko with it, while he makes a team. If the Federation operates poorly, ineffectively, Pavelko will be responsible for that.

About Donbas Arena

- I did not miss a single game at the Donbas Arena. As of today, we do not play at the Donbas Arena. Our fans are suffering today, and I have also said to myself that I will suffer along with the fans, and that I will attend football only at the Donbas Arena. I haven’t been anywhere. I find it very tough without football. I have not missed a single game - I watch every game on TV. For instance, I haven’t seen the players for a whole year. I have just arrived and seen the players at Mister’s birthday party.

I find it really hard without football, but these days all of us, you know, are in no mood for football. Because Donbas is in trouble, people are dying. Civilians are dying! When peace comes, when peace settles in – and we hope that it will come – we all will return to the Donbas Arena, and we all will surely get together. And I will definitely attend football.

I’ve been missing the Donbas Arena very much. You know, I was born and raised in Donetsk. Donetsk is my dearest and most favourite city. And I am so much missing it. All residents of our city, of our region, always came to Donbas Arena and provided the kind of support that it was always very hard for all our opponents to resist us there. Everyone said that it was very difficult to play Shakhtar away! The Donbas Arena has the kind of atmosphere, which, basically, at least made our opponents make mistakes, and made our team charge forward and produce quality and winning performance for our fans.

And today, there is a disaster there, people are in trouble. I have said many times that common sense should win. Now it is important that everyone wants peace. It is important that they stop shooting, stop killing people, and that civilians stop dying. They should restore the economy, create jobs, I mean that people should get decent jobs and decent salaries. And that they should live, not just survive as they currently do, but live! Decently and happily. That's the main thing. Peace, to recover the economy, to secure jobs.

I am sure that the Champions League anthem will go at the Donbas Arena and that we all will gather together as a close-knit family at the Donbas Arena. And that Darijo will sing a song for all our fans, the ‘Out in the Donetsk steppe...’ one, and that all the supporters will sing along. And, I think, it will be a very moving meeting with the fans, bringing tears to the eyes.